Pune: FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic hasn’t had the best of times on the touchline despite his team’s success in the Indian Super League this season. The Serbian’s passionate and aggressive demeanour has caused a few problems for him recently. Just a few months ago, unhappy with refereeing decisions, Popovic was handed a four-match ban and was fined for his remarks against the match officials in Pune’s 2-0 win over FC Goa on 23 December.
Ahead of their first leg semi-finals against Bengaluru FC in Pune, Popovic spoke at length about the quality of refereeing in the league. "I want to be on the touchline tomorrow (Wednesday) hence I won’t speak too much. But I cannot understand how the referees cannot know the basic thing that is the rules (of football). Some decisions, one is a penalty in a game and is not in another. I try to control my emotions but you have never seen five to six Pune players surround the referee and put him under pressure. We respect them more than any other team,” Popovic said during the pre-match conference at the Balewadi Stadium.
“I have an experience of 40 years in football. I played my first professional game when I was just eleven years old. I don’t know if referees are even 40 years old,” he added.
Although this wasn’t the first time Popovic got into trouble for his antics on the pitch. The Serb was suspended for three months in the Thai League in June last year for allegedly slapping an opponent team's physiotherapist in an incident that led to his resignation.
The 51-year-old coach was unhappy with how referees would easily get influenced by the pressure of other team’s players and demanded more respect from them. “They are human, they do make mistakes but they have to better and to be better they need to have more games. They also need to listen to what we say because they never play football. I just want some respect. They don’t feel football the same way we do it. The referee cannot lose his job because of my mistake but I can lose mine because of his mistake. So who deserves more respect?” Popovic explained.
However, the Serb was confident about his team’s chances against Bengaluru FC and even compared the importance of his star performers Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro to Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. “In Barcelona, when Lionel Messi is suspended then how can they play? When Luis Suarez is suspended then how can they play? I think everyone else cares more when Messi and Suarez are suspended than how much the coach cares. The same goes for us,” he said.
Pune attackers were suspended for Pune’s last two matches but are in contention to play on Wednesday night. "It is important for us to have both or one of them available because they are important for the team. We have Marcelinho and Alfaro who are at the top level but we must have the other players that must help them. If other players are not in the game, both will find it very difficult to help us. That is why you need to play like a team and have a player that is playing in his own top level," Popovic added.
Pune will host the in-form Bengaluru on Wednesday at the Balewadi Stadium and by looking at the recent form of both the sides, it is expected to be a thrilling start to the knockout phase.
Updated Date: Mar 07, 2018 10:51 AM