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May 25, 1998


Pak umpire fouls India, Korea win 4-3

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Harpal Singh Bedi in Utrecht

India's misery in the ongoing 9th men's World Cup hockey championship continued unabated, as it went down 3-4 to Asian champion South Korea.

This was India's third successive defeat in the tournament.

The Indians paid the price for poor finishing, missed chances and some of the most overtly biased umpiring ever seen in a tournament of this stature, courtesy Pakistani umpire Irfan Zaidi.

From the way Zaidi used his whistle, blowing for a record 10 penalty corners in the space of just 18 minutes, it was apparent to all that he was out there with the sole aim of ensuring India's defeat.

The match-winner for the Koreans came on the stroke of the 70th minute, via the 13th penalty corner. Here again, the ball was not stopped properly off the push, but Zaidi overlooked that and allowed Yong Kyun Jeong to slam home the winner.

On the day, Zaidi's umpiring "bettered" even that of his infamous campatriot Shafaq Zaidi, who has a notorious record against India.

The furious Indian players rushed towards the umpire on the stroke of the final bell, but Zaidi was quickly escorted out of the ground by the officials.

It was a clear case of very poor, sub-standard umpiring, certainly not fit for a World Cup match.

For Korea, the goal-scorers were Yong Kyun Jeong, Seong Tae Song, Seok Kyo Shin and Keon Wook Kang, who all scored one apiece.

Rajesh Chauhan, Sabu Varkey and Samir Dad scored for India.

It was a match India should have won easily, but a determined team of Koreans and an equally-determined referee saw to it that it did not happen.

Such was the poor and partisan umpiring by the Karachi-based Zaidi that the crowd -- a majority of whom were local Dutch natives -- booed the umpire as he left the field.

The whole episode left a bad taste and took away some of the sheen from the World Cup.

India for its part failed to make use of quite a few chances. However, no one could have imagined what was in store for them in the second half.

It was after the breather that Zaidi went into overdrive, awarding penalty corner after penalty corner and using his whistle to ensure that the ball never moved out of the Indian half.

The Koreans began on an attacking note with Seong Tae Song and Yong Kyun Jeong making incisive moves. The Indian defence was hard-pressed to stop the fast-moving Koreans, who forced the first penalty corner in the 4th minute and then earned another one immediately thereafter.

Off the second penalty corner, Keon Wook Kang relayed the ball towards Yong Kyun Jeong, Baljit Singh Saini failed to clear the ball and Jeong made no mistake in sending the ball home (1-0).

Five minutes later, India made their first authentic attack. But near the circle, Dhanraj Pillay fumbled while taking the crack at goal, and the onrushing Sabu Varkey, who was backing his skipper, tried to get past a Korea defender. The bid, however, was foiled, resulting in a penalty corner which was muffed.

The Korean counter followed and in the next minute, Yong Kyun Jeong sent a cross which defender Lazarus Barla failed to intercept. The lapse proved costly as Seong Tae Seang scored with a diving reverse hit. (2-0).

After conceding two goals in the span of ten minutes, the Indians looked rattled and confused.

The Koreans had a chance to further consolidate their lead in the 15th minute when Shin Heum Part created a fine opening for Jeong who, however, failed to connect the cross near the Indian goal.

The Indians soon recovered, became cohesive and made some very good moves. They earned their second penalty cornder in the 21st minute but Anil Aldrin's direct crack was superbly saved by goalkeeper Jin Soo Koo.

Three minutes later, the Indians forced their third penalty corner and this time, Rajesh Chauhan deflected Aldrin's shot into the goal (1-2).

The Indians had a good chance to equalise in the very next minute but Dhanraj Pillay missed an easy chance.

The Koreans countered and the Indian defence conceded the third penalty corner, Seong Tae Song relayed the ball to Keon Wook Kang whose powerfful sweep missed the target by a whisker.

The Indian countered, with Mukesh Kumar running down the left flank to send a square pass to Dhanraj Pillay. The Indian captain, with an open goal in front of him, shot wide.

A couple of minutes later, Pillay and Saini set up Rajesh Chauhan, whose attempt didn't even go close to the goal.

Coach Bhaskaran replaced Pillay and sent in Devinder Kumar. The Koreans nearly scored in the 34th minute when young Hwang Lee ran down from the right flank and caught the Indian defence unawares. His powerful shot however was palmed away by goalkeeper Jude Menezes.

Just seconds before the breather, Chauhan made an opening for Samir Dad, but the latter failed to utilise it.

The indians started the second sesson agressively, and in the 3rd minute drew parity. Dilip Tirkey s long free hit was intercepted by Sabu Varkey, who side-stepped the Korean goalie to push home the equaliser (2-2).

For the first time in the championships, the Indians took the lead when, in the 42nd minute, Samir Dad flicked the ball into the cage off a free hit. (3-2).

From this point, the sordid drama unfolded as Zaidi virtually ensured that the Koreans spent all their time around the Indian citadel.

With the Koreans getting one penalty corner after another, they finally equalised in the 50th minute when Seok Kyo Shin slammed home with a powerful drive.

With Irfan Zaidi playing his whistle like a master flautist, the Indians couldn't even mount a counter as ever time the ball looked like going out of the Indian half, Zaidi blew for whatever reason he could think up at the time.

As the stunned crowd and match officials watched in dismay, the Pakistan umpire threw all pretence of impartiality to the winds and blew for everything. And, sometimes, for nothing.

The tragedy was that after poor displays in the first two games, the Indians finally played well today to win the hearts of the crowd.

Just as the hooter was blown indicating the end of the match, Zaidi topped his earlier excesses by awarding the Koreans the 13th penalty corner. In their hurry, the Koreans did not even stop the ball, but the umpire allowed Keon Wook Kang to score the winning goal (4-3).

Zaidi apparently knew what he had done -- for, directly after signalling the goal, he ran away to the other corner of the ground and stood there, sheepishly awaiting an escort of officials before leaving the ground to prolonged booing from the crowd.

Coach Bhaskaran said after the match, "We will not lodge a protest, because it was made clear in the managers' meeting before the tournament that such protests would be over-ruled and the umpire's decision would always be final.

''There were bad umpiring decisions," said Bhaskaran, "and the technical officials must see the television relays to ascertain the correct facts.''

Why, Bhaskaran demanded, should an Asian umpire supervise a match in which two Asian countries are playing? The organisers should have had umpires from a different continent.''

Referring to the performance, Bhaskaran said he was disappointed with the performance of the two full backs, Dilip Tirkey and Lazarus Barla.

Korean coach Choi Ki Soo admitted that there were some good and bad decisions by the umpire and ''Naturally we got the penalty corners. So we have no reason to be unhappy as we abided by the umpire's decision.''

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