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‘Need to apply the 18th Law of the Game in a Derby’

Posted on : Tuesday November 26, 2013

By Debayan Mukherjee,
AIFF Media Team


NEW DELHI: Officiating in the Kolkata Derby stays the dream of all. Fresh from his duty as a Referee in the 306th edition of the Kolkata Derby, FIFA Referee Pratap Singh admitted that it is the ‘18th Law’ that helps bring out the best in Referees while officiating 'special matches.’ In a freewheeling interview to the, the man from Uttarakhand spoke on how it is to officiate in the biggest clash of Indian Football, his preparation, past experiences, the learning curve and much more. EXCERPTS:


From a Referee’s point of view, how different is a Kolkata Derby to any other Airtel I-League match?


You need to apply the '18th Law' at times in a special match like the Kolkata Derby. There are 17 Laws of the Game in writing. The 18th one is implied. For some it is the art of managing the game, while for some it is common sense that should prevail in the heat of the moment. To me, the 18th Law in a Derby is experience.


On Sunday (November 24, 2013), my experience of officiating in my previous two Derbies (in 2011 and 2013) helped.


Can you cite an example where you applied the 18th Law of the Game?


Arnab Mondal and Odafa Okolie got into a scuffle in the first half. It was difficult to stop them initially and I had to warn them strictly that if they continued, both will be sent off. East Bengal’s captain (Mehtab Hossain) intervened and slowly things mellowed down.


On another day in another match maybe, I would have cautioned both the Players. Here I had to raise my tolerance level and force a truce that does not impact the game. Any rash decision may turn the tie on its head and the implications are far reaching.


So you mean to say you had to compromise?


Never! I used impromptu management skills coupled with common sense and experience. It helped maintain the flow of the game and as the slogan was flashed before the match kicked off, violence was never given a chance.


In these types of highly sensitive matches, a rash decision or quick one can lead to major outbreak. If you as a Referee who has the last word on the pitch can take a decision that is unbiased at the same time impactful, opt for it.


I am not saying don’t show the Red when a last defender tackles an attacker en route to goal, but apply the 18th Law where it can be applied.


Does the fear of being Public Enemy No.1 affect a referee’s decision?


That’s where the biggest challenge lies. I don’t want to take names but there are so many examples. There are so many penalty decisions which have been debated and antics from Players. But at the end of the day when we discuss and watch, the moment you know you were right, everything else stays immaterial.


Lastly, do you feel that the job of a referee is a thankless one?


We are not the real heroes on the pitch. The game is for the Players. So I feel we should not feel that it is a thankless job. We are here to do our duty and assure that the Laws of the Game prevail. Of course there are incidents that pull you down at times and that’s why the saying maybe that our job is thankless.


Can you cite an example?


Again, there are so many examples. It specially happens whenever penalties are awarded and none stay willing to accept. Abuses are hurled in by many. At that moment it hurts because your actions may influence the crowd.