The standard of referring in Indian Football has often been a cause of concern with this season of I League being no exception. The referees have come under the scanner for making errors, not giving legitimate penalties while awarding them when they should not have. While even the top league are not immune to referring mistakes, it is the number and frequency of such errors in I League this season that is a cause of concerns. Managers and players of almost of almost all clubs have voiced their concerns against the referring mistakes and such concerns are heard after every round.

League leaders Mohun Bagan have been on the wrong side of referring decisions in the last couple of rounds. Despite winning the match against Bharat FC last week, the Mariners were denied two potential penalties on either side of the break. Katsumi Yusa was booked for simulation just on the stroke of half time when it looked like he had been brought down by Syed Nabi while Balwant Singh was yellow carded for arguing with the referee around the hour mark when he seemed to have been brought down by Omar Jarun. The crowd were frustrated by the standard of referring and bottles were thrown on the ground in protest of the same.

Bagan however suffered the most in this round’ s crucial match against Royal Wahingdoh, who are placed second in the table behind them. Despite Katsumi’ s goal being disallowed by the referee as offside in the first half, Bagan were leading till the 80th minute mark and looked all set on their way to claim an important away win. Wahingdoh grabbed the equalizer in the 86th minute after Balwant Singh was adjudged to have handled the ball while defending but Bagan were denied a strong shout for penalty a couple of minutes later with Balwant having being brought down. Things turned worse as Balwant was shown a red card for arguing and with Mariners, reduced to 10 men, Wahingdoh found the winner in the stoppage time. How important these mistakes in the match between the top sides, prove out to be in the I League race is anybody’ s guess at the moment but the result has no doubt opened up the race for the title.

Another controversial decision from the action last week came from the match between Dempo and Mumbai FC at Cooperage stadium. With both team languishing in the bottom half of the table, Dempo were awarded a debatable penalty in the stoppage time which was converted by Carlos Hernandes. Dempo picked up three important points and moved above Mumbai FC in process. Khalid Jamil had earlier complained about poor referring in the match against Salgaocar which his team lost 3-0. Livid with the poor referring in the match against Dempo, Jamil said

It was not a penalty. The referee needs to be alert. The game got killed because of his decision and the morale goes down for the team who is on the receiving end. It was senseless. I am not saying the referee did it on purpose but at the end of the day, we are the ones who suffered. Carlos who is such a huge figure, how can he go down on the ground so easily? He later told me that it was not a penalty.

Another instance of poor referring was in the entertaining 3-3 draw between Bengaluru FC and Royal Wahingdoh where referee Pratap Singh came under the ire from both Ashley Westwood and Santosh Kashyap for making poor decisions. Pratap infact was awarded with best referee award for the 2013-14 season of the I League. Westwood in particular has been very vocal of the mistakes made by referees in the I League and has called for establishment of a process to make the match officials more accountable. Kashyap also voiced his concerns regarding the poor standard of refereeing after the Shillong derby where he mentioned

Again, I am very unsatisfied with the referee. It was a clear penalty from five yards when Seityasen Singh was fouled. Referee did go to clear the doubt from the linesman, but it was a horrible decision and a clear penalty

With the league entering into business end, the race for the I League crown and relegation are likely to go down to the wire and such mistakes can have a huge impact on the fortunes of the teams. Such incidents negatively impact the morale of the clubs and also bring down the value of the I League. The AIFF needs to look into these and make sure that such mistakes are not repeated and have a proper system in place where the officials who do a good job are rewarded while those who make such errors are held accountable.

I League Matches

I League Standings After Round 17

I League Standings After Round 17

Mohun Bagan saw their thirteen match unbeaten streak come to an end as they succumbed to an 3-2 defeat at the hands of second placed Royal Wahingdoh in an entertaining match at Jawaharlal Nehru Satdium, Shillong. The match began on an attacking note with Royals having the first chance of the match with Jackichand hitting the side but it was Bagan who went ahead in the 6th minute courtesy Balwant Singh who was found by Denson Devadas. Stung by a goal, Santosh Kashyap side went on the offensive and though Bagan had a goal ruled out as offside, it was the hosts that were dominant. The second half began with Bagan being pushed into a defensive mode by Wahingdoh who were rewarded for their efforts at the hour mark when Jackichand Singh equalized. Norde restored lead for Bagan in the 80th minute but the hosts equalized six minutes later from the spot after Balwant Singh handled the ball. A couple of minutes later , The Mariners had a loud penalty shout turned down by the referee who also carded Balwant Singh for protesting. Ten men Bagan failed to control the pressure and eventually conceded in the 90th minute as Naoba singh’ s shot gave Debjit no chance in the goal.

East Bengal were held to a 1-1 draw by Mumbai FC at the Cooperage stadium in the second match of the first match day. The match began on a dull note with neither sides having an major chances in the first 30 minutes. Josimar converted from the spot in the 33rd minute to put his side into the lead after Khabra handled the ball following a Climax Lawrence free kick. The Lal Hould brigade equalized in the 56th minute as Dudu glanced a freekick from Robert past Nidhin Lal. Ranti Martins earned a penalty in the 71st minute but his weak shot was saved by Nidhin Lal. The draw kept East Bengal at the fifth spot while Mumbai remained at the seventh spot.

Team of Round 17

Team of Round 17

Red Lizards got the better of the Golden Eagles 2-1 at the Fatorda Stadium in an ill tempered match. Darko Nikac capialized on a defensive error by the Dempo defense to put the visitors into the lead in the 6th minute. Dempo were reduced to ten men at the half hour mark after Prabir Das was sent off for verbally abusing the referee. Pune doubled the lead in the 67th minute courtesy Lalrempuia while Tolgay pulled one back a couple of minute later. Dhanpal Ganesh was sent off in the 72nd minute for fouling Carlos Hernandes but the hosts failed to find the equalizer despite a string of moves in the final fifteen minutes. The win saw Pune climb upto third in the I League table.

Sporting Club de Goa notched up their first win of the season with a clinical 2-0 victory over Salgaocar in a Goan derby which witnessed really low attendance. Odafa Okolie, who has revitalized the Sporting attack ever since joining them last month fired them into the lead in the 11th minute when he latched on to Anthony Wolfe pass to slot it past Subrata Paul. Much talked about youngster Brandon Fernandes doubled the lead at hour mark when he unleashed a powerful volley after receiving a pass from Alber Gonsalves. A great game from Sandesh Jhingan ensured that Sporting held on to their lead to notch up a well deserved win.

Bharat FC played out a 1-1 draw with Shillong Lajong in the final match of the round. Surajit Bose headed in a Steven Dias cross from the right to give the hosts a lead in the 36th minute. Lajong were the better side throughout the match and should have won had they converted the chances that came their way. They however had to wait till the 86th minute when Uilliams tapped in a Penn Orji cross in the 87th minute which proved to be the last worthwhile action in the match. The results of the round meant that the relegation battle has intensified with only four points separating 6th placed Salgaocar and bottom placed Sporting Club de Goa.