Governing body backs one of world’s top referees amid fallout from controversial Asian Cup red card

Football Australia says it is providing an Iranian-Australian referee and his family with “all the support they require” over the fallout from an Asian Cup match.

Alireza Faghani, an experienced referee who has officiated multiple men’s World Cup matches, sent off Iraq striker Aymen Hussein after showing him a second yellow card for “excessively delaying the restart of the game” during the team’s celebrations for its second goal during the 3-2 defeat to Jordan in the tournament’s round of 16 on Monday.

Iraq had just taken a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute when Hussein was shown a red card by Faghani. Iraq played the final 15 minutes of regulation time with just 10 men and Jordan went on to win the match 3-2 with two injury-time goals.

“Aymen Hussein excessively delayed the restart of the game after scoring a goal in the 75th minute,” an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) statement said.

“During the player’s celebrations, the referee strongly warned Aymen Hussein three times before finally showing him the second yellow card.

“In this regard, the second caution issued to Aymen Hussein was the correct decision by the Referee, as per the Laws of the Game.”

Iraq fans were left feeling aggrieved given Faghani didn’t show any Jordan players a yellow card in the aftermath of the team’s celebrations for the opening goal in the first half.

Both players celebrated their goals by mimicking eating while sitting on the floor and both those celebrations went on for a similar amount of time.

Hussain Al Khurasani, an Iraqi sport journalist and analyst, told CNN earlier this week that while he acknowledged the rule and reason for the red card was to avoid lengthy celebrations, the Iraqi celebrations lasted 50 seconds compared to Jordan’s 49 seconds.

Alireza Faghani shows Aymen Hussein a red card. - Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters
Alireza Faghani shows Aymen Hussein a red card. - Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

“I believe the referee’s decision was overly strict,” Al Khurasani said. “Considering that Aymen had already received a yellow card in the first half, a warning would have been more appropriate.”

An online petition calling for Faghani, who was named AFC Referee of the Year in 2016 and 2018, to be suspended pending an investigation has had more than 800,000 signatures as of Friday.

Football Australia, the country’s official governing body, said the “safety and wellbeing” of its members is the “priority,” adding that it is working with law enforcement agencies on the matter.

In a separate statement, the AFC added: “While the AFC does not comment on individual refereeing performances, we strongly condemn any form of threat, harassment, or disclosure of personal information targeting our referees, players, officials and all stakeholders.

“Such behaviour goes against the spirit of fair play and respect that we promote within the Asian football community.”

Born in Iran, Faghani migrated to Australia “for family reasons” in 2019 to officiate in the A-League, according to the AFC, describing him as “one of the top referees in the world.”

In January 2023, Football Australia announced that Faghani had joined the Australian match officials list for the first time.

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