James Moga, on Friday
Calcutta: East Bengal coach Marcos Falopa doesn’t want a referee from West Asia for the first leg of AFC Cup semi-final against hosts Kuwait SC, on October 1.
Speaking to mediapersons after a closed-door practice session at the club ground on Friday morning, Falopa revealed he had already spoken on this issue with club officials. “This is not in my hands. I have told the club management and let’s see what happens. I would like to see a referee from anywhere in Asia, but not West Asia. After all, it’s a semi-final.”
Club sources, however, said they cannot put in a request on the choice of referees. “It’s the sole discretion of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“In group stage matches, West Asian referees do officiate in matches involving clubs from the same region. But we are not sure what will happen in the semi-final. We just hope the match is not marred by poor decisions,” a senior club official said.
For the record, in Padang last Tuesday, Saudi Arabian referee Marai Mohammed Alawaji’s officiating left a lot to be desired.
Falopa has reasons to be worried about refereeing, as Uga Okpara, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Joaquim Abranches and Lalrindika Ralte have already been booked with a yellow card. Another booking on Tuesday will see them out of the return leg.
Kuwait SC, too, have a similar problem as striker Issam Jemma, defender Hussain Ali Baba and medio Chadi Hammami also have been booked.
Falopa agreed that his team would face an uphill task against the defending champions. “They are physically stronger and have very good foreigners. But they will make a big mistake if they do not show us the respect we deserve. We are not in the semi-finals just like that. It will be a difficult battle, but we are ready for it,” he made it clear.
The Brazilian said his boys would play at their own pace. “They have tired limbs. Playing non-stop football and then all this travelling… So expecting them to drive as fast as Fernando Alonso will be unrealistic. They will play at their own pace. Yeah… a draw will be a very good result for me.”
James Moga, hero of the last match, is banking on his eight-year experience of playing in the Gulf region. “I have played in West Asia. So, I know a lot about their style of playing. “They play a physical yet tactical game. I agree they are the favourites, but we are no pushovers,” he said.
Meanwhile, East Bengal announced a 19-member squad, which leaves for Kuwait City on Saturday evening. Cavin Lobo and Harmonjyot Singh Khabra have made the cut, with the rest of the 17 that travelled to Padang keeping their places.