Chennayin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric did not hold back his words after the 2-2 draw against Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
The Indian Super League (ISL) game saw several controversial decisions from referee Pratik Mondal, including a penalty call in the 70th minute against OFC – a decision that flared tempers throughout the stadium.
“I feel robbed today. It’s what I really don’t like to speak about because now we’ve had 16 matches and we accept all decisions from the referees, even if it’s wrong,” Brdaric told reporters after the match.
“We never complain, especially from the coaching staff after the matches, but today I think it’s enough. I mean now it is time to say something about what they are doing.”
Odisha FC’s first goal – as seen in the replay – showed Diego Mauricio in an offside position when Isak Vanlalruatfela threaded the pass to him, while Isak’s goal in the 28th minute – from an on-side position was ruled out.
For Chennaiyin, Brdaric feels Sahil Panwar has fouled Vincy Barretto while getting the ball to start the attack (for the first goal). But the most important decision that saw the entire Chennayin FC squad leave the stadium with disappointment was the late challenge of Lalruatthara on Abdenasser El Khayati in the 71st minute.
“Of course, we were lucky one time, but (tonight) we very often saw a situation when we didn’t hear the whistle from the referee at the right moment because they judged it wrong. So, everybody in the stadium saw. Those situations. And I mean it hurts a little bit because we are a hard-working team, we are building we try to be humble all the time,” Brdaric added.
“I mean, the ref (referee) today, was not in balance and I feel it from outside and by the time you feel it, it’s already too late.”
Hyderabad FC manager Manolo Marquez had earlier told Sportstar that work is needed in refereeing.
“I think with the referees, there are two important things. Firstly, they are not professionals, they are also working in another job (full-time). If you want referees in very good shape, they have to be professionals,” he had said, “Secondly, I said in the last meeting of ISL coaches in Goa that we must have self-criticism from our bench (in terms of remonstrations and angry outbursts).
Manolo’s hopes have seen some change in Indian football as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) – the body that assigns referees for the league – announced the first batch of elite football match officials (referees and assistant referees) last month.
The project, jointly invested by AIFF, the FSDL (the parent group of the ISL), and the Elite Refereeing Development Plan (ERDP), aims to make refereeing a viable career pathway in the Indian Football ecosystem.
“Our target is to employ 50 match officials full-time. Refereeing is a very important facet of the footballing pyramid and our goals towards doing more in this regard are detailed in the recently unveiled roadmap,” AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakar told AIFF website recently.
“The immediate target for 2026 is to engage more referees and create an exciting and viable pathway for referee development in India.”
Chennaiyin’s chances to make it to the top six look dim as the team sits eighth, with four games to go. But the future of refereeing looks towards a new dawn in India, with hopes of seeing Indian referees officiating in FIFA tournaments.