From what I have witnessed over the last 12 months at Avispa games I’d say it was inevitable, but on the biggest stage Japanese referees were embarrassed this morning as Yuichi Nishimura gifted an opening game win to Brazil (who seem to have some sort of hero status among the Japanese press/public/media).
Taken individually then any of the key decisions could be seen as slightly favorable for Brazil, after 4 or 5 of these (as I’ve seen over and over again at Avispa matches) it spoils the game and takes away from what should be a sporting spectacle.
In the Brazil-Croatia game:
i) Didn’t show a red card to Neymar after striking an opponent in the face (I believe a yellow was correct in this case, but a red is possible).
ii) Penalty given to Brazil with minimal contact from the defender (see Lee Kwang Seon on Nakashima vs. Toyama). No foul in my opinion.
iii) Foul against the Brazil Keeper by the Croatia winger jumping for the ball. Julio Cesar jumps too early, the Croatia player is watching the ball the whole time and gets a full contact on it with his head. No foul in my opinion, could have resulted in an equaliser.
Reading the English press, and listening to English radio today it was been almost unanimous that these decisions are wrong.
There are calls now that key world cup games should not be awarded to referees from Japan, or other minor leagues around the world as they are not capable to deal with the pressure decisions which need to be made.
Is this what the J-League had hoped for?
I believe that it has had a negative effect on opinion on Japanese football around the world.
The saddest part is that it is entirely predictable, and entirely avoidable.
Referees in this country live an entitled life with none of their decisions ever put under any scrutiny, so have no incentive to try to improve the quality of their profession.
When people have come in and said that standards need to be improved (such as Pusnik in the last 18 months) then they are seen as being unreasonable, angry and I feel currently at Avispa made targets of.
What the J-League now needs to do is try to listen to these people, especially those who have experience of the game outside of Japan and can try to give insight into how it is played around the world, rather than fight against them.
Next time Pusnik complains that rules are not being applied correctly in a game, maybe the referees should actually review the tapes and see if actually he is correct, rather than see him as an angry gaijin and send him to the stands while ignoring everything he is saying.
You’ve been embarrassed on the world stage J-League; maybe now it’s time to start listening.
Quotes from the Croatian team:
Manager Niko Kovac : “If anybody saw this was a penalty anywhere in the stadium, raise their hands. If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties.
If that was a penalty, we don’t need to play football any more. Let’s play basketball. It’s a shame. We talk about respect, but that wasn’t respect – Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s how you start the World Cup, we’d all better give it up and go home”
Defender Dejan Lovren (who gave away the penalty):
“I can hardly hold back the tears. Why don’t they just hand out the trophy to Brazil right away? Everything is going their way, everyone is saying they must win it, so why do we play then?
The ref didn’t even speak English. I asked him why did he give the penalty and he just mumbled something. My team-mates tell me the same thing – how can you have an international ref who is officiating the opening match, but he doesn’t speak English and you can’t even speak to him?”
Captain Dario Srna:
“It’s hard to stay cool-headed after a defeat like that. We expected the referee to be biased, but not like this … You know, they always tell us about fair play, the refs even hold meetings with us captains about that – and then they do this. But we must begin our preparations for Cameroon, in five days nobody will ask us how we lost to Brazil.”
Had this happened in a J-League match then none of these quotes would have been published in any newspaper or magazine, or broadcast on TV in any way.
The saddest thing being that this guy is probably the best referee in Japan and when he refereed for us against Kyoto was clearly better than any other referee we’d had in other games this season.