By PREECHACHAN WIRIYANUPAPPONG
THE CONTROVERSIAL volleyball match between Thailand and Japan at the world Olympic qualification tournament on Wedne-sday night has become the talk of the town after Thai fans nationwide made it a hot issue.
They are demanding volleyball’s governing body FIVB take immediate action to put right what they see as a serious wrong.
On Wednesday, Thailand went down to hosts Japan in a hard-fought five-set thriller 25-20 23-25 25-23 23-25 13-15 in a crucial match. The Thai team gave an all-out effort to stun the world No 5 on their home soil to enhance their chances of winning a berth in the Olympic Games for the first time at Rio this year.
The controversy started to take shape in the hotly-contested fourth set when Thai head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai, needing a player change, used the electronic team tablet to request it.
However, the system did not work properly and the first referee LG Macias from Mexico denied the change.
The fifth set was dramatic as Thailand performed brilliantly to take a commanding 12-6 lead and needed just three more points to capture victory. Japan clawed its way back to gain crucial points to tie the score at 12-12.
Thai coaches touched “challenge” on the tablet when a Japanese player faulted by collapsing across the net line. But to their surprise, the screen “challenge” did not work properly.
Kiattipong tried to ask the officials in charge what had happened with the tablet. The referee showed Thailand a red card, claiming the Thais were attempting to delay the game, and awarded one point to Japan – making the score 13-12.
Believing he did nothing wrong, Kiattipong went to explain the situation to the Control Committee members in charge. Things got worse for the Thais as the referee handed Thailand a second red card with a similar charge. Another point was given to Japan for match point 14-12. The game continued as Japan allowed Thailand one more point before clinching the set 15-13 and the match.
After the game, Thailand’s coaches wrote an appeal letter to FIVB, asking them to take action over the controversial match. Team manager Pisit Nuttee said he had studied the rules of using the tablet and found his team did nothing wrong. So why the two red cards? He insisted Thailand played with sportsmanship and respected the rules of the game and the referee’s decision. However he did not know why the referee had hit his team with two red cards which led to the team’s shock defeat.
Following the controversial match, Thai fans nationwide and those who watched the match live from around the world condemned the officiating of the Mexican referee. Hundreds of fans posted their strong comments on FIVB’s Facebook page and on the referee’s Facebook, asking the world body to investigate the case immediately.
FIVB yesterday invited the Thai team manager to discuss the case. On Facebook, thousands posted pictures of the Japanese flag with the words “no spirit”. More than 46,000 Thai fans have signed their names to a petition which will be submitted to FIVB. They have called on FIVB to respond immediately.