Atletico de Kolkata coach Antonio Lopez Habas was handed a four-match touchline ban on Saturday as the Indian Super League (ISL) clamped down on misconduct by also barring Atletico de Kolkata striker Fikru Lemessa and Robert Pires, the marquee player for FC Goa, for two games. All three were fined Rs. 5 lakh each.
“It is possible that some people have come to India thinking Indians know nothing. Anybody who creates a problem will be punished and this is in the interest of the league,” said NA Khan, head of the disciplinary committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Speaking over the phone from Srinagar, Khan told HT that they have “gone purely by the disciplinary code put out by Fifa and adopted by this league. All teams were aware of this and since this is a competition where matches happen almost every day, they know what the minimum punishment is and that it comes into force automatically.”
League leaders Atletico de Kolkata, who host Kerala Blasters on Sunday, said they have appealed. FC Goa too would, said an official from that franchise.
The decisions, if upheld, would mean that Spaniard Habas, 57, would be back on the bench on November 18 when Atletico de Kolkata play North East United FC at the Salt Lake stadium. His striker Lemessa, who has scored two goals in four games, will be available on November 7 against Chennaiyin FC after missing Sunday’s game and on the road to Chennai on November 4. And Pires cannot return before November 6 away to Kerala Blasters.
A former Bolivia coach who has also been in charge of Valencia, Sporting Gijon and Tenerife in Spain, Habas, according to a release from the ISL, had been warned for his conduct in the game against North East United on October 16.
Atletico de Kolkata will also miss their South African goalkeepers’ coach Predipkumar Bhaktawer who was shown the red card at half-time in the match against FC Goa. Bhaktawer was also fined R30,000. Another member of the Kolkata team’s support staff is on warning after having used his mobile phone from the technical area.
An official with Atletico de Kolkata said their disciplinary record --- the worst in the ISL --- is a matter of concern but added that they are backing the coach. The official also said Habas could be spoken to before stating the franchise wouldn’t want to undermine his passion and the spirit he has infused in the team.