Conscientious refereeing decisions took centre stage in the I-League encounter between East Bengal and Gokulam Kerala on Saturday. Co-incidentally both the decisions favoured the Red and Gold brigade as they went on to thump Gokulam Kerala 3-1 in front of their home fans.
In the 56th minute, Rakshit Dagar caught Christian Sabah inside the penalty box without getting a touch on the ball and Gokulam should have been awarded a penalty. But the incident was not spotted by the referee who was far from the action.
The second controversial decision was even more surprising as referee Priyobarta Singh Langpoklakpam was within handshaking decision from the spot when Lalrindika Ralte headbutted Guilherme Castro in the 76th minute. It was a violent action on the field of play which warranted a straight red card for the former Aizawl FC player. But Langpoklakpam only showed a yellow for reasons best known to him.
This sort of behaviour from a senior player like Ralte was unexpected and unprofessional, especially when the next match is against Mohun Bagan.
There has been a precedence on retrospective action set by the disciplinary committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) earlier this season after going through video footages of a match. In an Indian Super League (ISL) game between NorthEast United and ATK, the Highlanders' goalkeeper TP Rehenesh was seen slapping ATK defender Gerson Vieira during a corner-kick routine. The incident went unnoticed by the officials during the game but retrospective action was taken against the former East Bengal keeper.
First, he was punished with an interim suspension for violent conduct and then was handed a further two-match ban. He was also fined ₹2,00,000 (Two Lakhs) for his unsporting actions.
The law clearly states that 'Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball regardless of whether contact is made.' Additionally, 'an action, which is not a challenge for the ball, which uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent or when a player deliberately strikes someone on the head or face unless the force used is negligible' is deemed as violent conduct.
Immediately after the headbutt, Castro is seen clutching his face and falling to the ground.
The AIFF has already done this in ISL. Will they follow the same precedent in the I-League as well, in light of the Ralte incident?
It remains to be seen whether the committee chaired by Sr. Advocate U N Banerjee takes any action against the offender this time.