Criticism a constant for Indian-origin referee Sukhbir Singh 

ICC Singapore - FC Internazionale v Chelsea FC : News Photo
Sukhbir Singh

What’s the story?

The International Champions Cup match between Chelsea and Inter Milan had a rather strong Indian connection – the referee. Sukhbir Singh, who hails from Singapore, is a referee of Indian descent.

Singh has been a top-flight referee in the S-League for a number years now and on Saturday night, got the chance to officiate a match between two of the popular football clubs in Europe.

However, not everything went smoothly for the Singaporean on the night, who received a lot of flak for certain decisions.

Inter may have won the match 2-1, but the Chelsea fans would have felt hard done by, with regards to some of the decisions made by Singh.

The game itself got off to a good start with both the sides exhibiting a propensity for swift counter-attacking football. However, Chelsea soon found themselves behind thanks to a horrendous blunder by Singh.

Borja Valero played a delicious aerial through-ball to Stefan Jovetic, who did well to control the ball with his chase inside the box.

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta was alert to the danger, as he came in to thwart Jovetic, putting an outstretched leg to the ball.

However, referee Singh immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, much to the horror of the Chelsea players, manager, and the fans. Replays clearly showed that Azpilicueta got all of the ball and none of the man before Jovetic went bundling down to the ground.

To add to that, Inter midfielder Roberto Gagliardini seemed to have stepped in the box before Jovetic struck the penalty, something that the referee failed to spot yet again.

Roberto Gagliardini (encircled) had clearly entered deep into the penalty box before the spot-kick was even taken.

Although Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois managed to save it, he had no chance as the Montenegrin slotted in the rebound into an empty goal.

Inter also fell victim to a poor decision by one of the linesmen, who had wrongly flagged Jovetic offside, after the Montenegrin was played through by Ivan Perisic.

However, two wrongs can never make a right in football, and Singh had more than his fair share of wrongs on the night.

Inter, who had gone 2-0 up in the second half via a Perisic strike, handed Chelsea a way back into the game, as Geoffrey Kondogbia scored what may well turn out to be the best own goal we have seen in quite a while, as he lobbed the ball over his own keeper from close to the halfway line.

Indeed, the Blues thought that they had made their way back into the match when Cesc Fabregas chipped a pass for Michy Batshuayi to control and finish with his left foot. Their celebrations, however, would not last for long. Sukhbir Singh had struck yet another deadly blow (of the whistle) for them. This time, for offside.

The replay, however, suggests that Batshuayi was well behind the second last Inter defender.

Michy Batshuayi was a long way on-side, even though he was flagged off-side

In case you didn’t know...

This is not the first time though, that Singh has come under flak for his poor decisions while officiating a game. Back in 2011, the then Afghanistan coach Yousef Kargar accused the referee of favouritism against his side in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup final against India, in New Delhi.

“The referee was against us. I don't know whether he is a Sikh or a Hindu, and hence supported the opposition [India],” Kargar had said after the match.

Singh awarded the hosts a penalty, a decision that was grievously protested against by the Afghan players, resulting in goalkeeper Hameedullah Yousufzari’s sending off after he allegedly pushed the referee.

This decision proved to be pivotal as the score was still tied at 0-0, with just 25 minutes left on the clock.

Following Yousufzari’s sending-off, however, India swept the Afghans off their feet, clinching the match and the title 4-0 within regulation time.

Also read: Twitter reacts to Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Inter Milan

The heart of the matter

A referee has his best game when nobody notices him. Sukhbir, however, was clearly in the limelight in a match that featured two of the best football clubs in Europe. It is not new for us to see such mistakes, but one must always account for human errors.

What's next?

These mistakes by Sukhbir would not have affected either team much, as this was merely a pre-season friendly. The primary motive for this match, and indeed the entire tournament is to get the players back in shape for the upcoming season.

FIFA has taken a bold step by introducing video technology in football to aid the referees. This could go a long way in eliminating such human errors in football.

Author's take

As mentioned earlier, referees are only human, and they can make mistakes. Especially for someone like Sukhbir, who has a lot of experience at Asian level, but not so much while officiating a highly anticipated game between two European giants. We can only hope that the Singaporean referee will learn from such mistakes and get better with time and more experience.

Edited by Amit Mishra
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