Asian Games – Refereeing ‘issues’ reappear

It has been an unfortunate ‘tradition’ for many, many years that manipulation through the refereeing has been a topic in continental Asian competition. The worst example was presumably the events in the qualifying tournaments for the 2008 Olympic Games, especially the infamous men’s game Korea-Kuwait. Therefore, last February in the Asian Championships, which served as qualification for the men’s World Championship next January, it was a pleasure to note a complete absence of accusations and controversy.

But now it seems that it might be ‘back to normal’ again. In a key game yesterday, Bahrain played Iran, and after Bahrain’s earlier loss to Korea in the group play, this was the last chance for Bahrain to qualify for the semifinals. It was a close game, but reports from the Danish coach for the Bahrain team suggest that, in the second half, the strange referee decisions deprived Bahrain of any chance to win the match. There are comments from the coach both in Danish media and in the ‘Gulf Daily News’. The coach admits that, to make things worse, his players were unable to ‘keep a straight face’ and lost their concentration in their frustration over the refereeing decisions.

Of course, even against the background of the ‘traditions’, one would not want to jump to conclusions on the basis of views from the coach of the losing team. But I have now obtained opinions from neutral observers who are present in Guangzhou, and their reports suggest that the problems were in fact greater than the coach is stating. It seems there was a clear impression that the referees acted under some kind of pressure, and that their decisions sometimes seemed related to the result of the match at a given moment.

However, the real and undisputed indication the Asians are acting without scruples is the following: at the time of the legal process following the infamous Korea-Kuwait match, culminating in a Tribunal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the IHF took a clear decision that [u][/u]the referees in the match would be permanently banned[u][/u] from refereeing at the international/continental level. Indeed, I personally confirmed this position, with the Asian leadership present, when I was the IHF witness in the Tribunal. But when now there is an Asian event, without any external supervision from the IHF as there is no qualification for IHF events involved, [u][/u]it is shocking but perhaps not entirely surprising to detect that the Asians have taken the opportunity to nominate one of these Jordanian referees for the Asian Games[u][/u]. With his partner, he refereed a key game between China and Saudi Arabia a couple of days ago!

In my mind, this demonstrates an attitude of total disregard for IHF decisions, for the worldwide opinion and image, and for any sense of decency. One can only hope that matters do not go further downhill from here on, during the Asian Games and in future events….

On a happier note, it is interesting to note the strong coverage in major media in India for the efforts of their inexperienced and so far winless men’s team. Here are some links:

Tomorrow is the start of the women’s competition. The standings in the men’s competition so far are:
Group A: all teams with 3 games: Qatar 6, Saudi Arabia 5, Japan 4, China 3, India 0 and Mongolia 0. Group B: Korea 8 points after 4 games; all other teams with 3 games: Iran 4 points, Kuwait 2, Bahrain 2 and Hong Kong 0.