FIFA World Cup has started, and many sports fans in Japan seem to be losing sleep trying to catch the games.
Japan's all-star team lost today (6/14/2014) to Ivory Coast 1 to 2, in a match that had little to write home about.
But what floored me was not the Japanese team but the Japanese referee who presided over the opening game on June 12, 2014 between the host country Brazil and Croatia.
In that game, Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura
- yellow-carded Brazilian player for elbowing a Croatian player in the face, instead of red-carded - a collective sigh of relief from the stadium;
- allowed a penalty kick on what looks to be a blatant dive (aka "simulation") by a Brazilian player;
- disallowed a legitimate goal by Croatia
In doing all these, Mr. Nishimura was aided by two sub-referees, who were also Japanese.
From UK's Daily Mail (6/12/2014; part):
Neymar escapes red card in World Cup 2014 opener as referee Yuichi Nishimura hands Brazil soft penalty after Fred appeared to dive
Brazil's poster boy clashed with Luka Modric in Sao Paulo opener
The Barcelona player appeared to elbow the Real Madrid man in first-half
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura brandished yellow to relief of host nation
Fred earned Brazil a soft penalty which Neymar scored to give Brazil lead
Nishimura ruled out a late Croatia goal for a foul on Julio Cesar by Ivica Olic
Croatia manager Niko Kovac blasted referee Yuichi Nishimura for his poor performance during the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.
The Japanese official had a night to forget, allowing Neymar to stay on the pitch following a cynical elbow on Luka Modric in the first-half, before awarding the tournament hosts a soft penalty and disallowing what looked like a legitimate equaliser by Croatia.
Kovac said Nishimura was out of his depth and that someone else should have been appointed to officiate if he wasn't up to the job.
Kovac said: 'I must say the referee was completely out of his depth.
'If someone's not up to scratch to referee the first game then find someone else. Two and a half billion people saw this wasn't a penalty.'
Yup. I saw it. But clearly not Japanese soccer fans in Japan, vast majority of whom tweeted how they supported the Japanese referee's decisions in the match and how proud they were of him for setting the standard for refereeing in this World Cup. At least in the world of Twitter, dissenting from that position doesn't seem to be allowed.
According to Yomiuri Shinbun's report, a major Brazilian newspaper (Folha de S. Paulo) is thanking the referee Nishimura for being part of the team.
AP reports that Croatian players claim Nishimura was speaking Japanese to them.