By Kitinan Sanguansak
Though the Incheon Asian Games is now part of history, South Korea is once again fending off criticism over its officiating standard.
Notoriously known for making the most of the “home” advantage when hosting a sporting event, South Korea created headlines for all the wrong reasons again following the latest controversy in the boxing ring.
The image of crying female Indian boxer Sarita Devi on the podium featured either on the front or the back pages of almost all newspapers across the continent.
She refused to accept her bronze medal after a controversial semi-final loss to a South Korean fighter. But instead of receiving sympathy, her act drew the ire of the sport’s governing body, AIBA, which threatened to take disciplinary action against her.
Thailand also had its share of controversial incidents concerning refereeing decision which favoured the hosts, most notably in the football semi-final.
There was no argument over the first goal the Koreans scored in the 2-0 win but the second one, which they converted from the spot moments before half-time, sparked heated debate among Thai fans.
TV replays showed a Thai player committed the foul just outside the box but the UAE referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. It effectively ended the contest.
The controversy on the football pitch came days after the exit of world No 5 badminton player Ratchanok Intanon following a bizarre 21-4, 18-21 and 21-8 loss to South Korea’s Bae Yeon-ju in the quarter-finals.
Following the match, Ratchanok added her voice to the chorus of complaints from players about the impact the strong air-conditioning system inside the Gyeyang Gymnasium venue was having on contests in terms of it affecting the flight of shuttlecocks.
Japanese player Kenichi Tago also complained and Japanese media gave the issue special coverage.
Thai Chief de Mission Thana Chaiprasit said the Olympic Council of Asia and the region’s sports federations should meet a year prior to the next Games to discuss ways to prevent favouritism in officiating.