Craziness in Asia
The English media went a little bit crazy over Luis Suarez going a little crazy last weekend but, in Asian football, craziness is a daily occurrence. Below are ten episodes from the world's biggest continent in the past few weeks.
1. Australia suddenly looking for cash payment
During the country's bid for the 2022 World Cup, Australia handed over $462,000 to update a stadium that was part of the Dr. João Havelange Centre of Excellence in Trinidad and Tobago. Of course, the donation had nothing to do with the fact that Jack Warner, then the T&T head of CONCACAF, was thought to control the three votes that the confederation had. The money seems to have disappeared and only now is Australia starting to ask questions.
2. Referee punched in Indonesia
When it comes to craziness, Indonesia is the drunken poker player that will raise whatever is placed on the table. At Anfield, a player is bitten; in the Indonesian Super League, Pieter Rumaropen was so incensed at a penalty being awarded against his team, Persiwa Wamena, that he ran over to the referee and punched him. The official went to hospital with a bleeding nose, while the game was delayed for 15 minutes. It remains to be seen what extra punishment the player receives, but rumours suggest it could be a lifetime ban. One can only imagine what Brendan Rodgers would say...
3. Lebanese referees on trial in Singapore
The AFC Cup is Asia's version of the Europa League and doesn't always receive the attention it deserves, but it was certainly in the headlines in early April. A trio of Lebanese officials allegedly accepted sexual favours from women in Singapore to influence a game between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India. The referees deny the charges and will go on trial in June.
4. Transparency promised but not practised
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa is a man used to getting his own way - he is royalty after all - and it's looking as if he is going to get his wish of becoming the president of the Asian Football Confederation next week. Despite his promises of introducing transparency at the bedraggled organisation, at a major press conference in Manama earlier in April, an Associated Press reporter who had written articles that were not to the Sheikh's liking about the arrest of Bahrain national team players for attending pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 was asked to leave.
5. Article 88 in Malaysia
Shebby Singh does not have the monopoly on nonsense when it comes to Malaysian football - a look at Article 88 of the Football Association of Malaysia's Constitution is testament to that. The rule states that only the president and general secretary of the body are allowed to comment in public on the performance of the national team. So when coach K. Rajagobal questioned the lack of decent strikers in the local league after a heavy defeat in March, the association was none too pleased. According to a nationwide poll, less than 2% of respondents wanted the rule left in place.
6. Indonesia team with six players
Indonesia has had two leagues and two federations; now it has two entries in this top ten, as does the unfortunate AFC Cup.
Persibo Bojonegoro travelled to Hong Kong with a squad of just 12 due to financial issues. The game wasn't much better and it was abandoned when the score was 8-0 to the hosts with the visitors down to six men.
"First of all I would like to apologise," Persibo coach Gusnul Yakin said. "We tried our best, but our players played very badly and we had lots of players injured."
The hosts, Sunray Cave JS Sun Hei, were having none of it.
"It's a shame on them," captain Roberto Afonso Jr said. "No one believed their players were injured. They just did not want to continue."
Coach Chiu Chung Man was even more scathing: "We didn't expect this situation from Persibo. They don't have any sporting spirit. We have heard many times about the lack of sportsmanship of Indonesian teams but did not expect it to happen with us."
7. Shanghai on strike
The departure of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka from Shanghai Shenhua at the end of 2012 due to salary issues may have ended the club's time in the international spotlight, but problems remain. In April, three overseas Shenhua stars - Colombian midfielder Giovanni Moreno, Argentine half-back Rolando Schiavi and Argentine midfielder Patricio Toranzo - skipped a league game amid claims that they had not been paid.
The problems behind the scenes are ongoing but, for the moment, the imports are doing the business on the pitch; whether they will still be there at the end of the season is another matter. Interestingly, Shanghai are looking much better this time round than they were in 2012 with their international stars.
8. Japanese horseplay
In a March match in the J. League's second division, three fans were punished for verbally abusing a horse. According to the Rising Sun News, so upset were fans of Roassa Kumamoto when a group of Gamba Osaka fans started to shout insults at their equine mascot, Roaso-kun, they complained to security.
In this horse-loving part of the world, the offenders' names were handed to Gamba and the club has announced that they will be banned from attending matches for at least a year. The team also issued a statement apologising to Kumamoto.
9. Snakes on an Indian pitch
During an I-League game between Mohun Bagan and Palian Arrows, over a dozen poisonous snakes made their way to the stadium near Kolkata, putting players and especially ball-boys at risk. Local official chairman P.K. Sur coolly explained that it was one of those things. "It's a snake-infested area and they were out because it was too hot. It is their area that we took over," he said.
Mohun Bagan midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi was not quite so sanguine. "It's a big issue," he said. "I for one would be afraid of playing there again."
10. Lightning strikes twice in Iran
Iran were right to complain about the last three games in qualification for the 2010 World Cup , which were played in the space of 11 days. Tough but not terrible, you may say, but the first was in North Korea, the second back in Tehran and then the third was in South Korea. Additionally, their rivals for the second automatic spot, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, could watch Iran's 1-1 draw in Seoul and then play hours later in Riyadh knowing exactly what they had to do.
The travel is not quite as tough this time around but, again, Iran end their campaign in Seoul before rivals for automatic qualification Uzbekistan and Qatar kick-off in Tashkent. It would not be difficult for both games to kick-off at the same time, and Iran are right to complain.