India's national football team coach Igor Stimac was on Friday slapped with a two-match ban and a fine of $500 by the disciplinary and ethics committee of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).
This means the Croat will not be in the dug-out for Tuesday’s SAFF Championship final, if India make it. The hosts take on Lebanon in the second semi-final at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Saturday.
In Stimac’s absence, assistant coach Mahesh Gawli will be giving instructions from the sideline. The former India defender was in the hot seat against Nepal too on June 24. India won 2-0.
Stimac got a red card against Kuwait on June 27 for “using abusive and offensive language” against match officials. He had returned to the sideline from a one-match match ban after having picked up a red card against Pakistan on June 22, the first day of the tournament.
India’s Rahim Ali, who came on as a substitute, and Kuwait’s Hamad Al Qallaf were also red-carded during the Group A match last Tuesday. Each got a one-match ban and a $500 fine.
“The disciplinary and ethics committee decided that India’s national team coach should be banned for two matches and fined,” SAFF general secretary Anwar-ul Haq told The Telegraph from Bangalore on Friday. On Wednesday, Stimac and the two players were asked to explain their actions by Thursday, which they did.
Stimac’s action had sent the All India Football Federation into a huddle with a senior official having a talk with the 55-year-old 1998 World Cupper after the match against Pakistan as well as the Kuwait game. “His (Stimac’s) error in judgement could have led to crowd trouble,” a senior official said on Friday.
Stimac’s ejection against Kuwait in the 80th minute disturbed the rhythm of the Indian team so badly that Rahim Ali got a straight red card in the 89th and Anwar Ali scored an own goal three minutes later.
Till the coach saw the red card, India were completely in control of the match and were leading 1-0 thanks to Sunil Chhetri’s super strike in first-half injury time.
The 38-year-old India captain, who has already scored five goals in this tournament so far, will have to ensure that his teammates do not lose their cool against Lebanon on Saturday. With senior pro and defender Sandesh Jhingan out due to suspension, it will be all the more necessary for Chhetri to ensure that the young team does not rub the referee the wrong way.
Lebanon have shown in the recently-concluded Intercontinental Cup and the ongoing SAFF Championship that they are a tough bunch. Overall, Lebanon hold a 3-2 edge over India with three matches ending in draws.
In the Intercontinental Cup final in Bhubaneswar last month, they made life miserable for the hosts in the first half. It took some harsh words from Stimac at the break for India to regroup and ensure a 2-0 victory.
In Jhingan’s absence, India are likely to field Mehtab Singh as Anwar Ali’s partner at the centre of their defence.