Protests in qual­i­fiers put Asian refs on the spot

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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. –

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