Japanese whistler Yuichi Nishimura feels the wrath of
not only the Croatian side for his performance in their
clash with the World Cup hosts but from former
By Kris Voakes at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo
The pre-match build-up seemed to all be about one
controversy or another and Brazil’s opening World Cup
fixture against Croatia has prompted more conjecture thanks
to the refereeing of Yuichi Nishimura.
While Neymar was the name on the lips of every Brazilian
fan funnelling out of the Arena Corinthians, the Croats in
attendance were echoing the words of coach Niko Kovac in
fingering the Japanese in charge as the game-changer.
The award of a penalty to Fred for falling under the
slightest of contact from Dejan Lovren was the decision
which drew the greatest ire from Kovac, while his players
were also unhappy with an elbow from Neymar on Luka
Modric which earned him only a yellow card seconds before
he grabbed the first of two goals to equalise.
Former World Cup referee Urs Meier was clear in his opinion
that Nishimura should not have been handed such a huge
assignment when speaking on ZDF after the game.
“Mistakes like this do not happen with referees that are
used to refereeing in matches like this. When you are involved
in Champions League matches on a regular basis, you can
evaluate situations like this better,” Meier claimed.
Drop said Fred | The striker went down easily in the area but won a disputed second-half penalty
“There was only little contact. The referee also had a bad
angle and he did not even try to get a better angle, therefore
should never have whistled [for the penalty]. If anything, he
should have given Fred a yellow card for diving.”
It is hardly the first time that a huge decision in a World Cup
match has had people questioning whether or not a referee
from a supposedly lesser nation should be given the task of
officiating the bigger fixtures but it is not as though Nishimura
has not refereed at this level before.
Indeed, many will remember him for being the man who helped
to end Brazil’s 2010 hopes by sending off Felipe Melo in
their quarter-final exit to Netherlands.
However, Nishimura has something of a chequered history in
his homeland. While he has picked up many awards in Japan
and been widely regarded as one of the best officials in
Asia, he also courted controversy in 2008 when he allegedly
swore angrily at a player.
And when he was awarded with the J-League’s Referee of
the Year award last December, one woman in the audience
yelled out questioningly, an act seen as demonstrating a huge
lack of respect in Japanese culture.
Add in the fact that Nishimura has shown red cards to the
wrong player so many times that there is an entire section
dedicated to them on his Japanese Wikipedia page and you
have a referee who was primed to cause some sort of stir
at this World Cup sooner or later.
But his decision to hand Brazil a gift-wrapped penalty when
Croatia were in a position to take something from the game
could well be remembered as his biggest gaffe yet.
The World Cup already has a huge contender for the mistake
of the tournament.