The referee ‘killed our dream’
"We had been waiting for this moment for the last 16 years but you killed our dream," Tapu Barman shouted towards Uzbek referee Akhrol Riskullaev soon after Bangladesh's encounter against Nepal, as well as their SAFF Championship campaign, drew to a close on Wednesday at Maldives National Football Stadium in Male.
After the final whistle was blown, the rest of the men in red and green converged on the referee and his assistants to protest against the controversial penalty decision that forced Bangladesh to play out a 1-1 draw in their final group match, which ended up barring them from playing the much-desired final of the regional football extravaganza.
"Anjan Bista [who earned the penalty and converted it] instead, should've been cautioned for diving and was supposed to be sent off for a second booking but the referee did the complete opposite," Tapu shared his experience with The Daily Star on Wednesday night.
"I even misbehaved with Bishwanath Ghosh but later I apologised to him after watching the replay because it was not his fault rather the referee's.
"Before the match, I briefed all the players regarding how crucial this tie was for all of us. We almost achieved our target as a unit but were forced to be eliminated," said a teary-eyed Tapu.
Bangladesh's team manager Satyajit Das Rupu presented an interesting and thought-provoking observation, revolving around the penalty decision.
"After watching the replay of the decision [penalty], we saw that Saad Uddin was the closest to the Nepal player [who fell] but surprisingly, the referee showed the yellow card to Bishwanath.
"If it was Saad who had indeed committed the foul, then it would have been normal for him to get the booking, so it all indicates how properly the referee had witnessed the whole incident," said Rupu.
Before the dubious penalty decision, another refereeing decision had the goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico sent off, which shifted the balance of the game against Bangladesh.
"I believe we were forced to draw the match, something I won't forget in my rest of life. I don't regret getting the marching order but I just can't accept the decision [penalty] of the referee," said the talented goalkeeper, who had put up an impressive display prior to receiving the marching order.
Forward Suman Reza informed that the players and officials were all completely devastated post-match.
"We all had sleepless nights and our spirit remained lost until morning. In the dressing room after the match, we were all speechless or in tears," said Suman, the goal scorer of the game for Bangladesh.
Suman also cannot get over the penalty awarded to Nepal.
"A lot of scuffles occur inside the box but the referee ignores it generally. Yesterday, the referee could have avoided it because the Nepalese player failed to collect the ball which was drifting away much higher from his reach while any Bangladeshi players hardly pushed him," said the young striker of Uttar Baridhara.
Midfielder Mohammad Ibrahim expressed his frustrations as well.
"Before the start of the match, coach [Oscar Bruzon] warned us about the referee telling us that we won't be allowed to win and it happened eventually," Ibrahim said. "The final was supposed to be between Bangladesh and India and we had a good opportunity in the final, especially the way we played against them in the group stage."