Sixteen minutes of infamy sinks Bangladesh in SAFF football
What happened during the match between Nepal and Bangladesh in Maldives on 13 October can be summed up in a theatrical title: travesty in paradise!
In the game of football, the referee is the ultimate arbitrator and his decision is final but what happens when the official makes a horribly wrong call?
Referees hardly retract their decision but in today's game, where the pace is intense, electronic assistance is essential to aid the match official.
Instead of going into an emotional rant, one has to analyse the game between Bangladesh and Nepal in a non-partisan way.
As a keen football follower, I must say that the Uzbek referee needs to be questioned as to the logic behind his calls, which seemed impetuous and not well thought out.
The match analysis: Before we go into the refereeing blunders, the full game needs to be looked at from a neutral angle. Bangladesh took to the field desperate for a win because without a victory moving to the final would be impossible. In contrast, Nepal needed only a draw.
The tigers got an early goal through a spectacular header, which again, was a lucky break because a team like India had to wait till the last quarter to get a much needed goal against a dogged Nepal.
It seemed luck was on our side. Nepal, true to their indefatigable spirit, upped the tempo with their ball possession rate going to 60 per cent.
In counter attack, Bangladesh had a one to one situation which the player failed to convert. In an international match against a tough side, such a mistake proves costly as we saw later.
Now if Bangladesh had the service of the African player, Eleta Kingsley, who had recently been given citizenship, then he probably would not have missed that chance.
Unfortunately, Eleta's clearance did not come from FIFA. At this point with Bangladesh out of the tournament, the question should be raised as to why his clearance could not be obtained when it was clear that the team is bedevilled by striker deficiency.
I have heard some very fatuous comments from people, who, for some peculiar reason want the national team to flounder, saying that Eleta is in mid- thirties and cannot service the national side for long.
Well, the point is, we do not need him forever! If he can show his magic for a year or two Bangladesh can at least win a trophy. To be even more blunt, if Eleta just delivered in one tournament, helping Bangladesh to win in the final then he would have done his bit.
Anyway, coming back to the match: after the interval, Nepal tried hard and soul to get the goal but it seemed elusive.
At that time, a slipshod back pass was intercepted by a Nepali forward, who ran towards the Bangladesh post. Zico, the goal keeper rushed out of his post and blocked the defender. There was no foul committed but during the clearance, the ball hit the hand of the keeper who was out of his box.
Shockingly, the referee came and summarily showed a red card when it was very clear that it was ball hand and not hand ball.
Minutes later, a penalty was awarded to Nepal for an offence which seemed more like a simulation from the Nepali forward. However, the main blow was the red card to the goal-keeper, around sixteen minutes before the final whistle.
The sixteen minutes of infamy: As the match looked more and more in favour of Bangladesh, the axe came down hard. There was no justification in showing the red card to the goal-keeper, who marched out looking stunned.
The others were perplexed too and then, as if to ensure the last nail in the coffin, gave the decision for the penalty kick.
Was there a conspiracy to ensure Bangladesh's exit? Well, we cannot say without evidence but if actions reflect intentions then the referee seemed more than a little too harsh on the tigers because after showing a red card to a team, the usual norm is to treat the penalised side with a little leniency.
Instead, the mission appeared to be to forestall Bangladesh's advance, whatever the method.
Did the referee see the video recording of the moments, which prompted him to take harsh actions?
In the match against an Indian club team recently, we saw a similar incident: aBangladeshi player for Bashundhara Kings was give the marching order when the main offence, very clear from the match video, was committed by the player from the other team.
Since SAFF is a tournament for regional supremacy, there needs to be total transparency in refereeing plus the way red cards are given.
The two decisions form the Nepal-Bangladesh match are dubious and while Nepal's advancement to the final should be commended, there must be a full probe into the two incidents in the last quarter of the game which appeared, sorry to say, deliberate attempts to thwart Bangladesh.
In modern day football, electronic aid, VAR, has become common though in the ongoing SAFF, it was absent. If this technology had been there, then things would have been different.
Losing to a side which played better can be accepted, like the way we applauded Maldives when they won against Bangladesh earlier in the tournament, but filthy refereeing leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. And that bitterness takes a long time to dissipate...
Pradosh Mitra is a former
development worker and
a keen social observer