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Umpiring errors do not augur well

S. Thyagarajan

CHENNAI: Surprising lack of uniformity and unacceptable vagaries in umpiring, bordering on whimsical decisions, produced a devastating effect on the four Asian teams in the recent junior hockey World Cup at Rotterdam. None of the coaches, or managers, leave alone the players, is without a tale of woe.

India was not the only victim. The worst was the reversal of a goal signalled, recorded and accepted. The scenario is grim for a sport, which seriously wants to compete with popular disciplines on TV.

Why should Nathan Stagno, who was nearest to the action, be influenced by the other umpire, Klein-Nagelvoort Erik almost 50 yards away because some Spaniards would not accept the verdict and rush to the other umpire is incomprehensible.

The incident left a bitter taste, and was slotted into history as another umpiring aberration robbing the team. Just imagine a scenario of Argentina, Australia and India in the medal bracket without a single European team on board in a world competition.

Asians affected

If there is a note of commiseration for India, it should be equally so for other Asian outfits — Korea, Pakistan and Malaysia.

For the Koreans, the reverse against Germany in the classification tie was tragic. Leading 4-2 midway in the second half, the Koreans, reduced to nine players because of two yellow cards, lost by a golden goal after Germany made it 4-4, about 29 seconds before the hooter. Where the Koreans were done in was when the Dutch umpire Van eert Rod forgot, or so it is imagined, to recall one of the Koreans.

Malaysia's disappointment was a last minute penalty corner that led to Pakistan scoring the match-winner after the regulation time. Coach Sarjit Singh gave vent to his anger and disappointment as he stormed out of the ground.

The Pakistanis too were disappointed when the Spanish umpire Requena awarded a stroke and a yellow card for skipper Shakeel Abbassi against the Netherlands.

Largest viewer base

Cataloguing umpiring solecisms affecting invariably the Asian continent, which the International Hockey Federation believes to be the largest viewership base, should not be mistaken as a litany of excuses to make up for other inadequacies. On the contrary, the exercise is aimed at drawing attention of the powers-that-be in the FIH to the growing cynicism that the Asian players are needlessly targeted in crunch situations where the benefit of the doubt often goes against them.

What needs to be emphasised is that no single entity from the continent, whatever be its influence in the decision-making apparatus at the FIH, can improve matters.

The issue must be taken up collectively under the umbrella of the Asian Hockey Federation, sinking differences that palpably exist and are exploited by others in various spheres.

The AHF is duty bound to press the FIH to utilise technology to minimise umpiring errors; at least in situations, where doubts arise whether the goal is scored or not.

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