AFC U23 Championships

Poor Officiating Infuriates Indonesia in U-23 Asian Cup Opening Day Defeat

A number of controversial calls from referee Nasrullo Kabirov infuriated Indonesia U-23 as the young Timnas Garuda went down 2-0 to hosts Qatar U-23 in the opening match of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Monday.

The Indonesian camp accused Kabirov of being biased towards Qatar, with the hosts receiving several favorable decisions such as being let off the hook for several blatant fouls and dives, whilst Indonesia repeatedly came underneath Kabirov’s scrutiny for even the slightest of offenses, which led to red cards received by Ivar Jenner and Ramadhan Sananta.

Gameplay-wise Indonesia actually performed quite decently, taking the game to their stronger opponents and frustrating them to no ends.

The tide of the match then changed right at the end of the first half, after Rizky Ridho had fouled Mahdi Salem within the area. Khaled Ali effortlessly slotted the resulting penalty past Ernando Ari, ensuring that Qatar would have the advantage coming into half-time.

Things then went from bad to worse for Indonesia after Jenner – who had been booked earlier as part of Kabirov’s “questionable conduct” throughout the game – was sent-off after receiving a second yellow for a foul that did not deserve a booking at all, with a similar foul by Witan Sulaeman in the 54th minute being penalized heavily with a free-kick by Kabirov.

Ahmed Al Rawi subsequently took the free-kick and curled it past Ernando, doubling Qatar’s lead.

Another controversial moment came at the end of the match, with substitute Sananta performing a lunge on Mohammed Alash that was penalized with a yellow card by Kabirov. However, after a review from VAR, Kabirov upgraded the punishment to a straight red, much to the anger of the Indonesians.

In response to what they perceive as “farcical and biased refereeing,” the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) have lodged an official protest towards the AFC in regards to Kabirov’s conduct during the match. Additionally, Indonesia U-23 head coach Shin Tae-yong also sharply criticized Kabirov after the match, alleging that the Tajik referee was biased towards Qatar as not only the match’s host, but also the overall tournament hosts.