Two weeks ahead of the big kickoff in Thailand’s top tier, Thai League 2 saw its opening weekend somewhat overshadowed by refereeing controversies.
There were ugly scenes in the match between Udon Thani and JL Chiang Mai United, with players and coaching staff getting into the referee’s face. Rayong FC midfielder Thiago Santos was left bemused as he picked up a yellow card after being on the receiving end of a reckless challenge against Police Tero.
And Air Force United felt hard done by when they had what would have been an equalising goal disallowed for offside in their 3-1 defeat at Army United.
Much has been made of the work put into training referees and trying to ensure more appropriate behaviour from players and staff. However, it quickly unraveled when the action got underway, underlining the scale of the challenge facing the governing bodies in addressing poor refereeing standards and bad behaviour.
At Army Stadium, the home side took a first-half lead when Mongkol Tossakrai set up Rennan Oliveira but Air Force levelled through a fine Kayne Vincent strike at the start of the second half. The hosts regained the lead when Tanakorn Dangthong headed home but the visitors were furious when the linesman’s flag went up to deny Greg Houla a second equaliser.
Rennan added his second of the night to seal a 3-1 win for Daniel Blanco’s side but Air Force head coach Jason Brown was left frustrated by what he felt was a poor decision with his side 2-1 down.
“We’re going to talk about refereeing decisions,” said Brown. “Goals change games. We go 2-2, we go on and win the game. Day one of the season and we’re talking about a highly controversial decision.
“If it went to 2-2, we were in the ascendancy, we were going forward, we were attacking. But those who haven’t seen Air Force have seen some fantastic young talent. My team fought, dominated possession but ultimately there’s one statistic that counts.”
Another source of frustration for Brown was that the referee seemed to have already forgotten one of the rules the men in the middle insisted would be applied this year.
“We had a meeting with the referees on Wednesday and the referees made it abundantly clear that anyone who kicks the ball away will be yellow-carded,” said Brown. “It happened three times and there were no cautions.
“We all want Thai football to get better. These rules are set by FIFA so if the referees don’t clamp down on it in the games and the players do the same in international games, they’ll get a yellow card.”
Although he saw much to be pleased about in defeat, Brown acknowledged that his youthful side could have made better use of their possession.
“We could improve our use of the ball,” said Brown. “You see us getting into some fantastic positions, you see the intent to make the pass but the quality sometimes isn’t there.
“But if you’re a neutral, you want to watch us play. If we continue to play like that, it will turn and the results will come.”
At the end of an eventful first weekend, BG Pathum United top the table following a 4-0 win at MOF Customs. No one would be surprised to see them in the same position after Matchday 34.