It was touted as a potboiler - the youth academy team of one of Europe’s premier clubs that had posted three 5-0 wins on the trot against a school side from Afghanistan that had also impressed in their group games. But the fourth junior (under-17) boys’ quarter-final of the 53rd Subroto Cup between FC Dynamo Kiev’s youth side and Esteqlal High School, Kabul, will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Proceedings simmered for some time before coming to a boil in the last minute of regulation time. With the Ukrainian side leading 2-0, referee Arumughan Rowan was brutally assaulted by Ehsaan Shejauddin seconds after he became the third Afghan player to be sent off.
In the absence of security personnel, hell broke loose. Organisers, desperately trying to defuse the situation, rushed onto the field, even as Rowan — the Fifa referee was left with a bloody face — was administered first-aid on the sidelines before being taken to the hospital, where he got stitches.
More shameful scenes followed — supporters of the Afghan side applauded the player, evidently for having bravely stood up to a partisan official. Finally, with the Afghan team pacified, the final minutes of the match was played out with the alternate referee.
The first dismissal was on account of a second booking, while the two direct expulsions followed harsh tackles by an Afghan side increasingly frustrated at being unable to penetrate the Dynamo defence.
“Such behaviour cannot — and will not — be tolerated. Some action will be taken. But what that action is will only be decided by the technical committee once the referee submits his report,” said VN Singh honorary secretary of Subroto Cup. Added another official, “Since there is a foreign team involved, the committee will only take a decision after consulting with higher-ups in the Air Force.”
Asked for his take on the incident, the Afghanistan team’s coach said: “Don’t ask me - ask all those who were watching from the stands. Never before have I seen a referee doling out cards at will, that too against just one team.” However, when asked whether the action taken by his player was justified, the coach said: “Of course not. I told him that this is not how he is supposed to behave.”
Esteqlal High School player Mohammad Haroon said, “We were flashed cards for the slightest foul while the Ukraine side was only given verbal warnings. Thrice our bench objected to the organisers about the referee, but to no avail. Naturally, the team receiving a third red card caused him (Ehsaan) to lose his cool. Sounding angry, Haroon added: “Why this partiality? The Europeans are guests, but so are we. Is it because they are a famous team while we are little known?”