ISL 2016: Red and yellow cards fly off the racks
What do Ali Hasan Alsamaheeji, Coimbatore Srikrishna, Guerrero Fernando have in common?
These gentlemen are the honorable referees of the Hero Indian Super League 2016 who are entrusted with the duty to conduct a fair game of football. Beyond this obvious similarity, these men have flashed their cards more than 20 times, as we near the close of the 10th round.
With an average of more than 5 cards per game, they have made an utter mockery of the beautiful game. The personnel who are supposed to regulate have erred in multiple ways while handling crunch games.
Footballers are a temperamental lot. Most athletes are. On the field passion is at its zenith; tempers flare and things often get ugly. But a referee cannot yield to an indiscriminate showing of cards, reducing the game to ludicrous levels.
That’s what has happened in the third edition of the glitzy eight-team tournament, and FC Goa coach Zico has been vocal about it. He has been facing a tough time as his squad is replete with suspensions. Tabloids are lauding his move to field nine Indian players, but little do they know that this situation has been brought about due to unbridled bookings.
The referees have flashed straight red on numerous occasions. Such atrocious decisions affect the balance of the game and denude the 90 minutes of its due charm and beauty. Owing to the short duration of this tournament, it is indeed unfortunate that such blunders go unnoticed. Consequently, the teams suffer and they slip in their quest to conquer the trophy.
A blatant dive is awarded a penalty, a legitimate shoulder dash is pulled up as a bookable offence, while the truly sinister ones are let off without batting an eyelid – these are some of the flagrant violations of the basic football rules and regulations that have been observed. This reflects the lack of proper training for the match officials; incompetent to the core, these referees would cut a sorry figure in the international scenario. Such puerile displays diminish the overall standard of the tournament.
If we look at the contest between FC Goa and Kerala Blasters, it was a card-fest as the home team were reduced to nine men. Further, a stoppage time of nine minutes proved to be costly for the Goans. Zico later launched a tirade against the officials, who failed to rein in the rising tempers. Not one decision was seen to be made in consultation with the linesmen and as a result, there were plenty of refereeing howlers.
To have a side reduced to nine men consistently is not acceptable. The players are definitely to be blamed but they are not the only ones who should be hauled up. The presence of known rule-breakers like Marco Materazzi makes any encounter a tetchy affair. That, coupled with the stamp-my-authority approach from the match officials, make ensuring a fair game a very difficult proposition.
To understand why the cash-rich tournament is deteriorating vis-a-vis the compliance standards, one must look at the implications of the refereeing decisions.
This is a three-month affair wherein retired foreign players and other international players get a platform to showcase their talents to the top-level-football-devoid country of India, and there is no surety that the same person would be back for the next term. Consequently, there is a noticeable dearth of accountability.
This holds true for the players, coaches and referees too. For instance, Antonio Habas, erstwhile coach of Atletico de Kolkata, had to watch his current side FC Pune City from the stands. Although that was only for the first four rounds, it has ensured that the gaffers have been relatively disciplined in this season.
In the end, it is the beautiful game which bears the brunt of the conflict of egos. There needs to be a stringent regime to make every person accountable for their actions. Banning for matches or imposing hefty fines is not in the best interests of the game. Creative measures need to be thought of and implemented based on the specifics of each situation.
Docking of points for the next season seems a viable option. The players might not be there, but the team would still participate in the subsequent editions. Imposing a penalty like this would ensure there is a strict vigil on the erratic players.
The standards of refereeing, the tendency to flash cards immediately – all of things need to be nipped in the bud. The organisers need to conduct a thorough due diligence before referees are appointed; without this exercise, a tournament of this measure would lose its sheen.
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