Gold Cup controversy another sign of bad reputation

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-27 22:43:07

The Gold Cup provided a surprising final as regional behemoth Mexico went up against first-time finalists Jamaica though the result (Mexico won 3-1) was not. For the Reggae Boyz, this was the finest ­moment in their history behind their World Cup 1998 appearance, which they fully deserved after having knocked out hosts the United States in the semifinal. Powerhouse Mexico's appearance would normally be regarded as straightforward but not this time.

The main reason why this tournament will be ­remembered is the controversy sparked by Mexico's semi­final with Panama that involved fighting, crowd trouble, and ­allegations of cheating.

When Mexico played Panama Wednesday, the latter managed to lead 1-0 despite being a man down, until Mexico got a penalty for handball in the 89th minute. The foul was flimsy - a Panamanian defender fell onto the ball during a goalmouth scramble - and the Panamanians lost it. Players scuffled with their opposite numbers on the sideline and threatened to walk off the pitch while Mexican fans compounded the ugliness by throwing garbage on the pitch.

Mexico converted the penalty, then the match went into extra time where the Mexicans got another penalty and won 2-1. After the game, furious Panamanian players unfurled a banner in their locker room that called regional soccer body CONCACAF "corrupt thieves."

The dubious circumstances of Mexico's win over Panama raised allegations of favoritism by CONCACAF towards Mexico. Mexico had also gotten a last-minute penalty in their quarterfinal against Costa Rica which turned out to be the winning goal.

For a long time, there has been suspicion among smaller CONCACAF nations that Mexico and the US have benefited more than a few times from dubious referee decisions in Gold Cup games and World Cup qualifiers. The furious ­reaction from Panama's team and its soccer federation stemmed from this long-held perception of favoritism.

On Saturday, CONCACAF said the Mexico-Panama game's referee had ­admitted there were errors made in the match though it did not specify what they were.

CONCACAF already has a bruised reputation after ­several top officials were linked with corruption such as current head Jeffrey Webb, Webb's predecessor Jack Warner, who was also a FIFA vice-president, and former secretary-general Chuck Blazer. The federation is in danger of having its reputation slide even further if it find itself tainted by faulty soccer in addition to financial corruption.

The author is a Beijing-based writer.

Posted in: Extra Time

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