Monday, March 3, 2008

A Slight Stench of a Fix in Japan

At first glance, this weekend's Xerox Super Cup, the curtain raiser for the J-League season in Japan, seems to have been a case of a card-happy referee gone wild. Emperor's Cup winner Hiroshima San Frecce defeated J-League champion Kashima Antlers in a match that featured seven yellow cards, three red cards, a dubious penalty, retakes in the shootout and a pitch invasion.

But Ken Matsushima of The Rising Sun News doesn't think it's bad officiating. He suggests, no, he's convinced that a fix was in. Why? Because he knew the scoreline before the match. Hours before the kickoff, he posted on the message board:

Two possibilities -- a blowout win for the Antlers, or a nailbiter that might even go to PKs
Ill go with the latter. 2-2 in regulation time.

He goes on to explain, "From what I’ve heard, there have been some very large bets in Hong Kong on that score line."

The referee, Masaaki Iemoto has a reputation for being card-happy and being easily rattled. In fact, he developed such a reputation for poor officiating that in late 2006, Japan Football Association actually suspended him and sent him to Hong Kong for retraining.

Now, I'd normally dismiss suggestions of corruption in a case like this - they tend to come from sourgrapey homers or conspiracy theorists who can't fathom that a less talented team can beat a better team on any given day (in this case, the freshly relegated San Frecce knocking off the champs). A 2-2 result would be pretty hard to arrange, and the referee did send off players from both sides. Once you get to penalty kicks, it's a total crap shoot.

But it's not some internet John Doe running his mouth. Matsushima is the author of the one of the widely read English language sites on Japanese soccer, and he didn't just take a wild guess. If we are to take his word (and I don't see why we wouldn't), he knew that it would either be a clean match or a 2-2 draw ending in penalties. That's more than a little freaky.

We're obviously keeping our eye out to see anything comes out of the gambling angle, but in the meantime, enjoy these highlights from Iemoto's officiating career:

In this clip, you'll see the forward lose his balance in the penalty area. Iemoto awards a penalty and books the defender for... something.

Apparently, the #2 in white committed a bookable offense. Try to see exactly what he did, because I can't tell.

A Kawasaki goal against Urawa is disallowed for.. huh?

Later in the same match, the Kawasaki striker (#27) accidentally kicks the Urawa goalkeeper (in blue). The goalkeeper and his teammate attack the Kawasaki striker while he is on the ground, so naturally, the Kawasaki player is sent off while a yellow card is given to the goalkeeper.


ΓΌ75 said...

This guy is the Jack Warner of refereeing.

The Fan's Attic said...

That's incredible! The ref is completely incompetent. If I had only seen the disallowed goal, I would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, it could have looked like a push in the back by the dis-allowed goal scorer, but given the context he is utter shite.