At a time when the referees officiating in the Indian Super League are at the receiving end of criticism from coaches like Zico, Steve Copell, Jose Molina, underfire New Zealand referee Nick Waldron found support from FC Pune City coach Antonio Habas.
The FIFA referee Waldron, who officiated at the Under-17 World Cup in Chile last year, was criticised by FC Goa chief coach Zico for his handling of the stormy clash between his team and Kerala Blasters in Kochi, which Zico’s side lost 1-2 with his two players being sent off and conceding a goal in the ninth minute of added time.
A week later, the young referee was back officiating an important clash in the ISL and this time, he was again at the centre of post-match press conference discussion, although there was only praise reserved for the referee.
“I want to congratulate the referee today. The referee’s performance for me was (worth) 10 points (out of 10). May be sometimes, I am very critical about the referee but this one was perfect,” said the Habas after his team lost 0-2 against Chennaiyin FC at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here last night.
The praise from Habas will be music to the referee’s ears, especially after what he had to hear last week from the Brazilian Zico.
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“They (ISL) bring referees from New Zealand to do these kind of things here. What can New Zealand teach football to the ISL here? The Brazilian referees that came here — they didn’t have any problems in the three games that they refereed,” an upset Zico had said in his post-match briefing in Kochi before storming out of the press conference.
Criticism also came from Kerala Blasters coach Copell, and Atletico de Kolkata coach Jose Molina.
Waldron was one of the two referees from New Zealand selected by FIFA for the U-17 World Cup in Chile last year alongside assistant referee Glen Lochrie.
The Kiwi duo officiated the group clash between Belgium and Mali before taking control of the African side’s match against Honduras.
Besides the U-17 World Cup in Chile, the 35-year-old has officiated in World Cup qualifiers (Oceania), OFC Champions League and NZ Football Championship since 2007.