Sunil Chhetri in action against Kerala Blasters© ISL
A huge controversy erupted in the Indian Super League on Friday as Kerala Blasters forfeited their playoff match against Bengaluru FC after a goal by Sunil Chhetri from a free-kick towards the dying minuted of the play. After a goalless stalemate during regulation time at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru FC took a 97th minute lead when the talismanic Indian captain converted a free-kick. But the strike led to a full blown drama as the Adrian Luna-led side protested referee Crystal John’s decision to declare it a legitimate goal, with counter-claims that he did not blow the whistle before Chhetri took the kick and the players were not ready.
This followed an unprecedented walk-out, a first in ISL where Serbian coach Ivan Vukomanovic called back his players. Luna was seen taking off his captain’s arm-band with his teammates following their skipper.
By virtue of their extra-time lead, Bengaluru FC were declared winners as they will travel to Mumbai City Arena for the semi-final on Tuesday.
“I’ve never seen in my 22 years of career. I always ask the referee. It was a bitter sweet moment. But I’m happy that we are through to the semi-finals,” Chhetri said.
“Yeah, it was. I saw the opening. I told the referee that I neither wanted the whistle nor do I want the wall. They asked me again, I said I don’t want the whistle or the wall. I think Luna was blocking the first chance. I don’s want to say…because of all the controversy. But I asked the referee two times and he knew it. And yeah One of those days where it goes in,” Chhetri told in a video posted by ISL on social media.
The forfeiture and walk out cost Blasters dearly as they might face heavy sanctions from the league authorities.
Such an instance was previously seen during the Kolkata Derby in I-League 2012 when Mohun Bagan walked off the field and refused to turn up in the second half after spectators hurled a stone at their winger Syed Rahim Nabi from the East Bengal stands.
With PTI inputs
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