Suspensions, fines and outrage over ref’s Gold Cup gift to Mexico

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The soccer world is close to unanimous that the American referee’s penalty kick and red card calls — which swung the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal game in which Panama had dominated to Mexico — were completely outrageous.

Penedo and Tejada suspended for two games each, Panama’s soccer federation and Mexico’s coach fined — but the popular opinion here is that it’s one more case of the soccer establishment’s corruption

Mexico 2, Panama 1 on worse than bad calls

by Eric Jackson

A Gold Cup run in which Panama beat nobody in regulation time but in which nobody could beat Panama ended in a July 22 semifinal game against Mexico in the Georgia Dome. But the widespread opinion of the soccer world is that Mexico didn’t beat Panama either, but rather that American referee Mark Geiger gave the game to Mexico.

In the 24th minute Panamanian striker Luis Tejada was sent off with a red card for elbowing Mexican defender Paul Aguilar. Whether or not there was actually any elbow contact is debatable, but its treatment as an intentional foul was called by sportswriter Simon Rice of the British daily The Independent a reaction to “arguably the most ridiculous dive of all time.”

Short-handed, Román Torres headed a corner kick into the net at the 56th minute, putting Panama ahead. The Mexican fans showered the Panamanian team with beer as the scenes on and off the field became increasingly chaotic, with both Mexican and Panamanian fans throwing things onto the field.

Both of Mexico’s goals came on penalty kicks, the first in the 89th minute for Panamanian defender allegedly handling the ball (which does not show up as such on video replays) as he fell after being fouled (which clearly does show.) That gave Mexico the tying goal against a short-handed Panama. After the game Mexican coach Miguel Herrera opined that this “was not a penalty” and that his team didn’t deserve to win but took advantage of referee mistakes.

As the match ended on a Mexican penalty kick in overtime — this time it was a pretty clear penalty, after other clear penalties that just as well could have been called to give Panama a penalty shot were not — there were rowdy confrontations between the teams and Geiger had to be escorted off of the field by CONCACAF bodyguards.

Panama issued its protests about Geiger, and CONCACAF issued its penalties: for Tejada, in addition to the one-game suspension on the red card, another game for not leaving the field promptly. For goalie Jaime Penedo, the heart and soul of Panama’s Gold Cup run, a two-game suspension for physical contact with an assistant referee after the game.  A fine for Panama’s FEPAFUT soccer federation. A fine for Mexico’s coach for criticizing Geiger’s performance after the game.

Panama plays the United States for third place on Saturday the 25th at 3 p.m. Panama time in Philadelphia.

FEPAFUT president Pedro Chaluja told reporters that the semifinal game had been fixed. With two former CONCACAF presidents facing US bribery charges and a clear financial incentive for CONCACAF to prefer Mexico and its large television market over Panama’s much smaller audience in the final, a lot of Panamanians believe Chaluja.

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