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RANGOON — The Japanese coach of Burma’s national women’s football team has vowed to make an official complaint over the referee’s alleged lack of expertise during the team’s SEA Games defeat on penalties to Thailand.
Wednesday night’s semi-final at Mandalay’s Mandalar Thiri Stadium was a close-run thing, finishing 2-2, with Thailand emerging victorious 11-10 in a tense penalty shootout, knocking the host nation out of the tournament.
Burmese fans were outraged by decisions that disallowed a Burma goal for offside but allowed a contentious goal by Thailand to stand. The Indian official refereeing the match, Maria Rebello, as well as her lineswomen, bore the brunt of the criticism.
In a post-match press conference, Burma coach Kumada Yoshinori said poor decisions made by the referee had influenced the result, and that he would be filing a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“I will submit a complaint to AFC about this unqualified referee, together with the evidence and records. This will not change the result of the match, but I hope this will not happen again,” said Yoshinori
Zaw Zaw, Chairman of Myanmar Football Federation, backed the coach’s plan to demand the referee be disqualified.
However, the Thailand team’s coach and manager both said that they agreed with the decisions made by the refereeing team during the match.
Yoshinori said he will continue to train the Burmese female football team, which remains a respected side at 42nd in the women’s football world rankings and could go on to have an impact at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Vietnam next year.
But with the men’s team going out to Indonesia on Monday night, the SEA Games hopes of football-loving Burma are now dashed.
“The offside on the Burmese [disallowed] goal is quite controversial, but the offside on Thailand’s goal was so clear and visible,” veteran sports columnist Khin Maung Htwe told The Irrawaddy.
“Everyone watching the match saw it, but I wonder why the lineswoman and the referee didn’t see.”
He said the referee also made a number of other decisions that caused Burma fans to accuse her of bias.
“The referee’s bias can be clearly seen when a Thai player hit the face of Burmese player. We saw the Burmese team complain to her [the referee] but she took no action,” he said.
“When Burmese players were hurt, she gave no fouls against Thai players and she treated the Thai team differently. Such unprofessional attitudes must trigger a complaint.”
At the end of match, some angry fans threw empty water bottles onto the field to show their disagreement with the decisions causing a brief halt in proceedings.
Security was tightened at the match after fans in Rangoon rioted following the men’s team’s 1-0 defeat to Indonesia. Angry Burma supporters set fire to a billboard and clashing with riot police.
But in contrast, most fans in Mandalay on Wednesday reacted calmly, despite a feeling they were robbed.
“The spectators and fans were crying silently and calmly,” said Zaw Zaw, a Mandalay-based journalist. “They were sharing the sorrow of the players, but they felt satisfied with the match. Only few drunken people shouted out loud and cried. But they all left the stadium peacefully.”
Khin Maung Htwe, the columnist, said the team’s performances in the SEA Games were cause for hope.
“The women’s team has more potential than the men’s team. And they showed it,” he said. “Everyone can see from yesterday’s match that they are strong, confident and played more strategically than the men and never gave up. If they were given a fair chance, they would have qualified from the semi-final.”
“I believe they will be able to play and experience success in the upcoming Women’s World Cup,” he added.