Football fans clash over referee decision, 40 hurt
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Forty-four minutes into the first half, trouble started. Referee Vishnu Chauhan deemed Mohun Bagan captain Okolie Odafa unfit to take further part in the proceedings after the player charged at him and made threatening gestures. The decision added fuel to the fire and all hell broke loose.
Close to 1 lakh fans turned up at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the 10th round I-League match between Bagan and East Bengal, which was the season's first Kolkata derby. Police were completely outnumbered and the fans had the ammunition to go berserk in the terraces. They carried stones and bottles, and a few crackers as well.
Bagan's Rahim Nabi was hit by a stone that badly injured his head. Nabi was bleeding profusely and after some first aid at the ground he was taken to a nearby hospital where his condition was being monitored. However, the player is said to be stable.
Meanwhile, Odafa refused to leave the field after being shown the red card and the match was held up for close to 10 minutes. Finally, Bagan agreed to play the last few minutes of the first half. But they decided not to take the field after the break and sent a letter, detailing the reasons, to match commissioner Gulab Singh Chauhan instead. Chauhan and the other match officials waited for 30 minutes but Bagan cited security reasons and stuck to their guns of not continuing with the match.
The match commissioner had to announce the abandonment.
At least 40 people including 20 policemen were injured.
"I was concerned about the security of my players and that was the reason I decided not to play. A flare-up of violence could have caused serious problems," Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa said.
It was East Bengal's home match and they organised it. Fifa rules clearly state that if a match has to be called off due to crowd behaviour then the home team will be punished. It is, however, the referee's prerogative to take a call. Here, Bagan took the decision instead.
I-League CEO Sunanda Dhar, who was present at the stadium, said the matter would be referred to the tournament committee, which would take a decision about the outcome of the match. "Personally, I didn't see any law and order problem," he said.
For the record, East Bengal had a one-goal lead, scored by Harmanjot Khabra on 42 minutes, when the match was called off.
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