Goa-Kolkata fiasco

"FC GOA CAME TO PLAY FOOTBALL. In the last three games, no player got expelled, we had got only two yellow cards. So my team goes to play football on the field. Maybe the other teams come on the field to play American football. But what happened was very regretful," said Goa manager Zico.-K. MURALI KUMAR

According to Goa, its defender Gregory Arnolin was head-butted by opposition striker Fikru Tefera Lemessa at the stroke of half-time. Referee Christopher Penso, however, took no action. Later, it was alleged that Robert Pires was assaulted in the tunnel by Kolkata manager Antonio Lopez Habas. The whole fiasco, though, didn’t end favourably for Goa. While Habas and Fikru were suspended for four and two matches respectively, even Pires earned a two-match ban. In fact, Kolkata’s goalkeeping coach Predipkumar Bhaktawer was handed a one-game suspension too.

It hasn’t taken long for Atletico de Kolkata to develop an image of a side that likes to get physical and occasionally oversteps the line. It’s not just a prejudiced notion; the Kolkata franchise led the fouls committed table after four matches.

However, if FC Goa is to be believed, its opponent, on October 23 in Fatorda, replicated its usual on-field behaviour outside the pitch as well. The Virat Kohli-owned franchise filed a complaint against Kolkata after alleged incidents of violence took place during and after the match.

According to Goa, its defender Gregory Arnolin was head-butted by opposition striker Fikru Tefera Lemessa at the stroke of half-time. Referee Christopher Penso, however, took no action.

Later, it was alleged that Robert Pires was assaulted in the tunnel by Kolkata manager Antonio Lopez Habas. In addition to writing an official complaint to match commissioner Michael Andrews, Goa requested the ISL Disciplinary Committee to “take strong disciplinary action against the players and officials of Atletico de Kolkata for their violent conduct.”

The whole fiasco, though, didn’t end favourably for Goa. While Habas and Fikru were suspended for four and two matches respectively, even Pires earned a two-match ban. In fact, Kolkata’s goalkeeping coach Predipkumar Bhaktawer was handed a one-game suspension too.

Goa manager Zico, expectedly, supported his players before the punishment was announced. “Pires said he was punched on the face by the Atletico coach and it is very shameful. I am telling you what my players told me and I didn’t see that myself but I don’t think that Pires will lie and say something that didn’t happen. And when the team entered the field in the second half, they were very nervous and during the half-time we were only trying to control their nerves and calm them down.”

Goa gave away a first-half lead to concede twice from Cavin Lobo in the 71st and 84th minute. This was Kolkata’s third win in four matches.

However, Zico wasn’t appreciative of the opposition’s style of football.

“FC Goa came to play football. In the last three games, no player got expelled, we had got only two yellow cards. So my team goes to play football on the field. Maybe the other teams come on the field to play American football. But what happened was very regretful.”

Delhi Dynamos on song

In comparison to the Delhi Dynamos’ first home game against FC Pune City, the attendance for the contest against Chennaiyin FC on November 25 was even lower. Those who turned up, though, would have left with little complaints after a 4-1 win for the host.

It wasn’t just the result; the performance embodied manager Harm van Veldhoven’s vision. An energetic start brought two goals, albeit following set pieces. The first goal was particularly special.

ACTION FROM THE ATLETICO DE KOLKATA VERSUS MUMBAI CITY FC MATCH. According to Television Audience Measurement, 74.7 million viewed this match on October 12.-SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

With only 30 seconds on the clock, Alessandro Del Piero found Shylo Malsawmtluanga with a short pass and the ball was subsequently delivered to central defender Wim Raymaekers on the edge of the box. The Belgian proceeded to dispatch the ball into the top corner.

“We’ve been practising that in training but it never worked like this,” quipped Raymaekers after the match.

Mikael Silvestre admitted that he and his team-mates were surprised by the corner routine. Van Veldhoven, though, must have been very proud as the tactic seemingly arrived straight from the training ground.

After the initial burst, Dynamos sat back and picked Chennaiyin off on the counter late into the match. While the ball and overall control was relinquished, the host’s threat on the break ensured it never submitted to the opponent.

TV ratings

There’s little doubt that the ISL has caught the imagination of many in India’s major cities. The tournament was given a boost when it received largely good television viewing ratings in its first week.

According to TAM (Television Audience Measurement), no less than 170 million viewers watched the ISL during its opening seven days. This includes the 74.7 million who viewed the tournament opener between Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC on October 12.

These are very high figures, when compared to ratings for other prominent football competitions on Indian television. This year’s FIFA World Cup had an opening day reach (viewers who watched the programme for at least one minute) of 6.3 million while a total of 87.2 tuned in during the first week.

Obviously, one needs to observe caution when assessing these figures. The timings for the World Cup games didn’t suit the Indian viewer. Hence, there’s little surprise that a tournament which features a match at 7 p.m. almost daily has garnered higher viewership.

While the ISL media team was quick to point out the tournament’s superior figures in comparison to competitions like English Premier League, it would be unwise to compare the two. After all, the premier domestic English competition mainly runs over the weekend and there was no marquee clash lined up in the opening round this season.