The 10th edition of the AFC Cup — the competition run by the Asian Football Confederation for domestic clubs in 'developing nations' — has run into controversy following Tuesday evening's meeting Hong Kong's Sun Hei SC and Indonesian visitors Persibo Bojonegoro.
Following a 3-3 draw in Indonesia last week, Persibo travelled to the return leg at Sun Hei's Mong Kok Stadium and found themselves 8-0 down after 39 minutes.
Rather than risk a record-breaking defeat in the second half, the Indonesian Premier League apparently resorted to very unsportsmanlike tactics.
The South China Morning Post reports:
“With Sun Hei looking set to rack up their best score in international competition, Persibo players started falling like skittles after minimal contact with their opponents until they only had six players on the pitch.
“Seven is the minimum a side can continue playing with and referee Chaiya Mahapab of Thailand was left no option but to stop the match with 25 minutes left, and he awarded the match to the hosts.”
Sun Hei were suitably disgusted by the cynical tactics — as they are in particular need an improved goal difference to advance to the knockout stages of the competition — but the Hong Kong team had to make do with being awarded the 8-0 win.
It transpires that Persibo were never destined to have a good match. The team only arrived in Hong Kong on the morning of the game, and due to a combination of suspensions, visa issues and dire financial straits, they only brought a squad of twelve players.
Coach Gusnul Yakin blamed the performance on his side's late arrival, along with a lack of money and sponsorship. The Indonesian Football Association would have been fined if Persibo didn't show up to the game, so it appears the team may have been forced to travel and play against their will.
Which, of course, is no excuse for deliberately getting a game abandoned.
Ryan Bailey | Dirty Tackle