Picture Credit: Twitter

Picture Credit: Twitter

India’s assistant coach Mahesh Gawli has criticized the refereeing standards at the SAFF 2023 Championships after coach Igor Stimac received a yellow card in the 61st minute after getting involved in the match physically. 

WATCH: India coach Igor Stimac receives second red card of SAFF Championship 2023, gets sent off against Kuwait

The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Sunil Chettri scoring a beautiful volley in the closing stages of the first half but Kuwait equalized in the 92nd minute through an own goal from Anwar Ali. This draw meant India finished second in Group A on a level with points with first-placed Kuwait. However, Stimac will miss the next match due to suspension, leaving Gawli in charge of the team.

Gawli, who is a former India defender, expressed his frustration with the referee’s decisions and said that Stimac did nothing wrong and also accused the referee of targeting the Indian coach. “SAFF has to think about it because in high intensity matches the referee has to control. It was just a conversation between the player and the coach. The referee came and gave a red card. Coach did not say anything to them but they were targeting the coach. The standard of the refereeing has to change and if they continue with such a referee it is very bad for SAFF,” Gawli said in the post-match press conference.

When asked about the performance, Gawli said, “I think today the boys were brilliant and the performance was very nice. They played excellent football, and I am proud of my boys. But Kuwait were very rough and the referee was very poor.” 

This was not the first time that Stimac got involved in a controversy at the SAFF 2023 Championships. In India’s opening match against Pakistan, Stimac was shown a red card after preventing a Pakistani player from taking a quick throw-in.

Gawli admitted that Stimac was at fault in that incident but added that the Pakistan players pushed him and provoked him. India will face the Group B toppers Lebanon in the semifinals on Saturday, July 1.