After the referee blew the final whistle to signal the end of the match between Hoi King and Dreams on February 24th, it did not mean the end of the show. While the refereeing team was leaving, Hoi King players charged towards the match officials to express their anger after a number of controversial decisions during the game. Hoi King head coach Fung Hoi-man struggled to calm his men down, while the fans voiced their displeasure. Zinc Yeung looked at the aftermath.
Referee Liu Kwok-man took the spotlight of the match, as he faced furious protests from different players and received booing and cursing from the fans. He awarded Dreams a penalty late in the game, which was initially saved by Paulo Ceasar, but the rebound by Nacho Martinez gave Dreams the lead. The referee then gave Ze Victor his marching orders for complaining too much, as he questioned the leaglity of the goal. After that, ten-men Hoi King crumbled and lost the game by 1-4.
Speaking after the match, captain Chris Annan was not able to hide his disappointment. “Everyone can see how terrible he (the referee) is. For me he is the worst referee I have seen in my entire career. Chan Wai-ho tackled many times, the referee was scared to give him a yellow card. He was scared of the Dreams player? I don’t know. Dreams have not got a single yellow card today, but how many does my team have?”
Indeed, five Hoi King players were given yellow cards and Ze Victor was given a second one, while Dreams received no yellow card from the referee. However, Dreams accumulated fifteen fouls over the course of the match, five more than Hoi King, including a few potential yellow cards like Marcos Gondra wrestling Chris Annan down near the end of the first half, and Chan Wai-ho attempting a few professional fouls to stop Kim Minki and Sun Ming-him. Nonetheless, the penalty for Dreams was justified as the ball clearly hit Tsang Tsz-him’s arm in the box.
Chris Annan warned this will harm Hong Kong football’s future. “This is not FIFA (football video game), it is not fair to players who train very hard every day striving to win, but the referee’s performance put them down. It is not encouraging the young boys, it is not motivating them. At the end, some of them will give up and say I don’t want to play football anymore.” Despite that, the captain admitted that the team needed to work on defensive problems and improve in the remaining games.
Hoi King head coach Fung Hoi-man posted on social media late on Sunday, insisting he did not protest furiously to the match officials. “Firstly, after I congratulated Dreams staffs and players, I saw my players arguing with the referees. Immediately, I separated them and asked the referees to leave. Contrary to some reports, I did not protest vigorously as I knew that would not work.” Fung Hoi-man further wrote, “I know there are rules, so I never criticize referees as people made mistakes. However, some decisions this season have been frustrating which makes one suspect it may not be a coincident…” The head coach further stated his worries that this may discourage both sponsors and young players, and damage Hong Kong football in the long run.
Photo gallery by Zinc Yeung