Armenia has protested the “poor refereeing” by a Spanish official during the crunch Euro-2012 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin earlier this week that many say has cost the nation a playoff slot.
President of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) Ruben Hayrapetyan personally wrote on the wall of his Facebook page late on Wednesday that the Armenian soccer authorities had taken the step.
Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, the main referee of the match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on October 11, showed a red card to Armenia’s goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky in the 26th minute of the first half for handballing outside the penalty area, an offense for which the veteran player was sent off the pitch.
Replays, however, showed Berezovsky blocking the shot with his chest. Moreover, an Irish player appeared to have himself handled in controlling the long ball before shooting, making Berezovksy’s purported foul a moot point.
The match eventually went 2-1 to the home side, with Armenia going out of the tournament – and out of hopes of fulfilling a historic rise in post-Soviet Armenian football.
In his message to the fans, Hayrapetyan did not elaborate on the formal filing of the protest, saying only that the Armenian Federation was more interested in clearing Berezovksy of the red card than in “punishing the ignorant [ref]”. Apart from immediate trouble at the pitch, a red card also means that the player misses the next game or games depending on a further decision by disciplinary bodies. If the penalty is upheld, it would mean Armenia would be without its veteran goalkeeper when it embarks on the World Cup qualifying campaign next September. To rescind the red card would implicitly admit an officiating fault. Soccer’s governing body UEFA is no doubt not eager to face whatever further fallout that surely would be stirred, considering the magnitude of the game’s result – particularly for Armenia.
At the same time, FFA chief Hayrapetyan cooled the talk about a “foul play”, by UEFA that some in Armenia claimed had encouraged a refereeing favorable to the Irish team to offset the devilish referee mistake in 2009 that left the Boys in Green outside the World Cup when Ireland drew against France in a playoff in Paris and went out on two-leg aggregate.
On his Facebook page the FFA chief also praised the team for its quality performance and thanked Armenia fans for supporting the team even in hard times.