Protests in qualifiers put Asian refs on the spot
A RASH of complaints about controversial decisions has put Asia’s football referees on the spot despite strenuous efforts to raise standards.
Japan and Thailand both lodged official protests over key decisions in World Cup qualifiers this month, while standards are mixed at club level.
Japan were incensed after Takuma Asano’s shot crossed that the line against the United Arab Emirates on September 1 went unnoticed by Qatari ref Abdulrahman Al Jassim. They lost the game 2-1.
Five days later, Saudi Arabia were trailing Iraq 1-0 until they were awarded penalties in the 81st and 87th minutes by Qatar’s Khamis Al Marri. They scored both to win 2-1.
Such controversies are hardly new to football, but they have raised fresh questions about refereeing standards as Asian football strives to match other regions.
Former Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi, who has also taken charge of clubs in Thailand and Japan, said referee selection was a sensitive area.
“Assigning an official from an Arabic-speaking country close to the UAE in a game between Japan and UAE placed unnecessary pressure on the officiating team,” Ghotbi told AFP.
“Confederations can improve by assigning officials to matches to eliminate even a hint of influence or bias.”
Al Jassim was later criticised for disallowing an apparently legitimate goal for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors against Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Football Confederation refused to comment on individual referees. But it has been increasingly active in referee education, holding seminars and courses all over the continent.
Some progress has been made, but the sting of one high-profile outing still lingers. In the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura was roundly criticised when he gave Brazil a highly disputable penalty against Croatia.
After it put the misfiring hosts 2-1 up and on their way to a 3-1 win, Brazil’s O Globo newspaper gratefully ran the headline “Arigato” (“Thank you” in Japanese).
Later that year, Nishimura was again under fire when he turned down Al Hilal’s repeated penalty appeals in their AFC Champions League final defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers.
In a continent which has endured a litany of match-fixing scandals, suspicions of corruption are never far away.
But Alfred Riedl, coach of Indonesia with spells in Vietnam, Laos, Palestine and Kuwait, said sometimes the quality of refereeing is simply not good enough.
“The standard of referees in Southeast Asia is simply not adequate and is often really bad,” Riedl told AFP.
“Everyone makes mistakes but too many times the referees’ decisions are unknowable. In Indonesia there is still the same bad quality of refereeing as six years ago as referees are scared to make big decisions.”
Ghotbi said that while improvements have been made in Asian officiating, more could be done.
China also complained about a disallowed goal in the 0-0 draw with Hong Kong last November which appeared to have torpedoed their World Cup qualifying campaign.
But, as is the way with such protests, the result was allowed to stand.
– ROME’s new mayor Virginia Raggi is set to announce today whether she supports the Italian capital’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
Giovanni Malago, the president of Italy’s Olympic Committee, said last week the committee would abandon its bid to have Rome host the Games should it not get Raggi’s backing.
Raggi has made it clear she does not regard the Olympic bid a good idea for the cash-strapped city.
The mayor, who took office in June, is seen as waiting for the end of the Paralympics in Rio to announce that City Hall will not be supporting the bid.
Rome, which hosted the 1960 Olympics, is one of four candidates to host the 2024 Games, along with Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles. –