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Referees on whistle-stop tours as ISL and I-League run together

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Kolkata :Holding the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League together has had Indian referees virtually living on jet planes. This has meant increased opportunity and fatter paycheques but also the risk of running some of them to the ground.
Consider this: Tejas Nagvenkar did four games between December 22 and January 10, two in each league. That meant Nagvenkar, one of the six Indians with a Fifa badge, was in Chennai on December 22, in Kolkata one week later, travelled to Bangalore for the ISL game between Bangalore FC and ATK on January 7 and was in New Delhi three days later to supervise the match between Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters.
A Rowan, another Fifa badge holder, did the NorthEast United-ATK game in Guwahati on January 12 and was with the whistle in New Delhi on January 14 for the match between Delhi Dynamos and Bengaluru FC.
Those games came after Rowan did one in Jamshedpur on January 5. That meant three games in nine days made worse by the fact that there is no airport in Jamshedpur. So, an additional three-hour road trip to Ranchi or an almost five-hour train ride to Kolkata must be added to every visit.
Pratik Mondal did two I-League games in four days last December. For that, he travelled from Kozhikode to Aizawl. That’s 2264km by air usually spread over three flights and layovers. Then there is R Gupta, who did ISL games in Kochi and Kolkata on January 21 and 25.
“There is no rule but conventionally a seven-day gap between games is provided for referees if travel is involved,” said Milan Dutta, formerly head of the referees’ unit of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and a former member of the referees’ committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“While established referees have teams breathing easier, you do have to address the issue of fixture pile-up,” said Dutta who has supervised World Cup and Olympic qualifiers and Asian Cup games.
Workload or not, some refereeing decisions have got coaches in the ISL hot under the collar. FC Pune City’s Ranko Popovic was given a four-match touchline ban and fined Rs 5 lakh for ripping into Rowan’s handling of the game against FC Goa on December 23.
“Who was the referee (Rowan) protecting? Are there different rules for Pune City?” Popovic had said.
Chennaiyin FC’s John Gregory was banned for three games for public display of anger at referee Ranjit Bakshi’s handling of their away game to Jamshedpur FC on December 28.
“Referees’ assignments have been a massive challenge this time. Initially, the referees too were worried and, yes, there have been teething problems but I think, by and large, their supervision has exceeded expectations. Look at the two Kolkata derbies that went off without incident,” Gautam Kar, Director Referees, AIFF, said over the phone from New Delhi.


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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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