It was something unlike anything Indian Super League has ever seen before. A team walking out of a playoff match in Indian football’s premier competition. At the centre of it was Sunil Chhetri, and his goal against Kerala Blasters for Bengaluru FC. All hell broke loose after Chhetri scored in the 97th minute from a free-kick, and a huge controversy followed. the Basters decided to walk out off the pitch and forfeit their all-important ISL play-off clash against Bengaluru FC, protesting against Chhetri’s strike.
After a goalless stalemate during regulation time at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru FC took a 97th minute lead when the talismanic Indian captain converted a free-kick.
But the strike led to a full blown drama as the Adrian Luna-led side protested referee Crystal John’s decision to declare it a legitimate goal, with counter-claims that he did not blow the whistle before Chhetri took the kick and the players were not ready.
Watch: Sunil Chhetri’s Goal That Saw Kerala Blasters Forfeit ISL Match
A cheeky free-kick by @chetrisunil11 earned him the Hero of the Match for #BFCKBFC! #HeroISL #HeroISLPlayoffs #LetsFootball #BengaluruFC #SunilChhetri pic.twitter.com/G5VprhaWww
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 3, 2023
This followed an unprecedented walk-out, a first in ISL where Serbian coach Ivan Vukomanovic called back his players. Luna was seen taking off his captain’s arm-band with his teammates following their skipper.
By virtue of their extra-time lead, Bengaluru FC were declared winners as they will travel to Mumbai City Arena for the semifinal on Tuesday.
“I’ve never seen in my 22 years of career. I always ask the referee. It was a bitter sweet moment. But I’m happy that we are through to the semifinals,” Chhetri said.
The forfeiture and walk out cost Blasters dearly as they might face heavy sanctions from the league authorities.
Such an instance was previously seen during the Kolkata Derby in I-League 2012 when Mohun Bagan walked off the field and refused to turn up in the second half after spectators hurled a stone at their winger Syed Rahim Nabi from the East Bengal stands.
With PTI inputs
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