More Shenanigans in Asia?

South Korea and Kuwait both won their semifinal matches yesterday so these two rivals will meet on Tuesday in a rematch of their controversial Olympic Qualifier. While this match will technically have no bearing on the upcoming International Court of Arbitration for Sports (ICAS) ruling on whether the results of the first or second Olympic Qualification Tournament should stand, the outcome of this match will give one side some measure of vindication.

But while the ICAS ruling will resolve one controversy a new controversy appears to be brewing. News reports from the Gulf States indicate that Bahrain is deeply upset with the outcome of the Iran – Kuwait match on the last day of Group Play. Buried in an article of the Arab Times of Kuwait, it’s mentioned that the Bahrain Handball Association was fined $200,000 for a fight with the Kuwaiti team following the Kuwait – Iran Group match. On the official webpage of the Asian Handball Championships, the 5th place game scheduled for today between Bahrain and Qatar has no score listed, implying that the game never took place. And finally, the Gulf Daily News of Bahrain is now reporting that Bahraini clubs will meet on Tuesday to decide whether they should sever their ties with the AHF.

Why would Bahrain be so upset after this match?

Well consider the math, which no one can dispute:
– Bahrain had already completed Group play with 6 points. (3 victories: China, Lebanon, and Iran; 1 Loss: Kuwait)
– Kuwait had 6 points (3 victories: China, Lebanon, Bahrain; and no losses)
– Iran had 4 points (2 victories: China, Lebanon; and 1 loss: Bahrain

Therefore, if Iran were to lose or draw the match, Bahrain would secure 2nd place in the group and a berth in the semifinals. If, however, Iran were to beat Kuwait, the standings would have resulted in a 3 way tie between Kuwait, Iran and Bahrain with the next tie breaker being goal differential for the matches between the 3 teams in question. Going into the match the goal differential standings were

Kuwait +2
Bahrain -1
Iran -1

Therefore, the following results were possible:

Iran (win by 1): Kuwait (+1), Iran (0), Bahrain (-1)
Iran (win by 2): Iran (1), Kuwait (0) Bahrain (-1)
Iran (win by 3): Iran (2), Kuwait (-1), Bahrain (-1) [Next tiebreaker is total offensive goals]
Iran (win by 4 or more): Iran (3), Bahrain (-1), Kuwait (-2)

So if Iran and Kuwait were to conspire on the final score, there’s only one possible outcome (Iran win by 1) that would allow Kuwait to keep 1st place (and avoid Korea in the semifinals), put Iran in 2nd place and send the Bahraini team home. The same Bahraini team that sided with South Korea and Japan on the Olympic Qualifier controversy. And that was the final outcome of the game.

How did events unfold?

This is where the dispute lies and we have yet to see any formal reporting on the match itself. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Kuwait was leading 31-25 with 6 minutes remaining before Iran went on a 10-3 run to pull out a miraculous come from behind victory 35-34 victory. And the most inflammatory claims are that the Kuwaiti goalie appears to have purposely allowed goals and that other Kuwaiti players purposely allowed turnovers to help Iran in their comeback.

Commentary: Undoubtedly, this is only the beginning of yet another controversy in Asia. And once again without video proof, it’s impossible to determine the legitimacy of these claims. Let’s hope that someone takes advantage of you to post video to dispel the rumors. Let the whole world see the last six minutes, so they can decide for themselves.

Arab Times:

Gulf Daily News Article:

Official Asian Handball Championship Webpage: