'What does it mean by banning without transparency' - India legend Bruno Coutinho on Climax Lawrence's suspension

The decision to ban Mohun Bagan striker Odafa Okolie for three matches for violent conduct during the Kolkata Derby was much more collective compared to the one to punish Climax..
The All India Football Federation (AIFF)'s decision to revoke the two-season ban on Mohun Bagan was met with cheers and criticism from all quarters of the country. Some felt that the ban should have been upheld while others heralded the move as one taken considering the future of Indian football.

A footnote in this decision taken at the AIFF Executive Committee Meeting on January 15, 2013 was the issue of disciplining Mohun Bagan striker Odafa Okolie who was sent off for aggresive behaviour towards the referee in the Kolkata Derby on December 9, 2012. Bagan were already a goal down then and the Nigerian's verbal squabble with the referee thereafter further incensed the already volatile crowd into violence which resulted in midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi being injured when struck with a missile from the crowd.

Odafa was handed a suspension for three games, one of which he has already served when Mohun Bagan lost to Salgaocar FC in Round 17 of the I-League. In addition the Nigerian was asked to pay a fine of Rs. 1, 00, 000.

This incident draws parallels with another suspension saga which had taken its course in November 2012. Dempo SC midfielder Climax Lawrence was suspended for 2 matches when he was deemed to have acted aggresively towards the referee in an I-League match against East Bengal at Kolkata.

The AIFF officials claimed that they had video footage of the incident involving Climax and had stated that it was the evidence that was used in awarding the suspension.

Dempo coach Armando Colaco had criticised the AIFF on deliberately targeting the player and called for the footage to be shared with the club. Colaco also highlighted that the incident involving Climax, if deemed out of line, will have made its way into the match official's report. The Dempo midfielder missed two crucial games against Air India and Mohun Bagan in that period.

When I-League CEO Sunando Dhar was quizzed on why there was a change of approach when it came to suspending Odafa, Dhar told The Navhind Times that while the Mohun Bagan skipper was banned for three matches, Climax was for two. Dhar justified Climax's suspension stating that it came under the violent conduct rules and that the video footage was viewed after the game to help the officials arrive at the decision.

Climax was suspended for two games for alleged aggresive behaviour

"I felt the decision to ban Climax Lawrence for two matches was unfair and unacceptable. There should have been transparency before arriving at such a decision. Moreover, the referee’s report and the match commissioner’s report should have been made public. If there is any footage, it should have been shown. Nothing of this sort was done. So how can the football fans and the football community at large accept this decision?" Goa’s first Arjuna awardee and former India goalkeeper Brahmanand Shankwalkar wondered.

He felt that the decision to ban Climax was not taken collectively by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee as in the case of Odafa, but rather by a few officials put together. The 58-year old was of the opinion that more transparency was needed from the AIFF's part to explain Climax's ban.

Another Goa legend Bruno Coutinho was scathing in his remarks against the Climax ban.

"How can the Disciplinary Committee arrive at such decision of banning Climax Lawrence when nobody knows what the referee’s report was?" questioned Bruno. "If there was something of violence why was it not shown on the television," he questioned. "They should have shown the footage. What does it mean just banning without transparency," added the 43-year old.

When The Navhind Times attempted to contact club officials and referees on their take on the Climax versus Odafa ban, all expressed surprise in the approaches taken on the two occasions.

Many club officials felt that the AIFF was modifying rules as per their convenience and players are being selectively targeted. The officials stressed for further transparency in the decision making process.

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