Punch earns referee life ban
Macau referee Choi Kuok-kun has been banned for life for punching Hong Kong winger Lee Kin-wo during Sunday's annual Interport.
Choi hit Lee in the back of the head after being verbally and physically abused by the Hong Kong star in the match in Macau, which Hong Kong won 1-0.
'We don't want to be the laughing stock of the world. It is the first time a referee has hit a player and we want to show everyone that we made the right decision,' Rego Alexandre, a senior Macau FA official, said yesterday.
Choi, a FIFA-qualified referee, was unavailable for comment. He has the right to appeal the ban within two weeks. Lee's future is also in the balance as the veteran winger responded by punching Choi. The 32-year-old is likely to face a heavy sanction from the Hong Kong FA.
It was Lee's reaction to being sent off which preceded the exchange of blows. Choi gave Lee his marching orders when the player launched an abusive tirade at the official after having a free kick awarded against him. When the inevitable red card followed, Lee kicked the ball at Choi, striking the referee. Choi then attacked Lee, who retaliated in kind.
The executive council of the Macau FA met yesterday morning and swiftly dispensed justice, handing a life-long ban to Choi who has officiated for 10 years in the Macau First Division.
'It is a very serious matter and we gave him the punishment required. We have done our part and we hope the Hong Kong FA will punish the player accordingly,' said Alexandre.
Macau FA chairman Andy Chui Vai-pui also demanded Lee be punished by the Hong Kong FA. He said: 'We'll consider referring this case to the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA if we think the punishment on the player isn't appropriate.' A repentant Lee said yesterday: 'I can only wait and see what the Hong Kong FA will do. I will accept whatever punishment they give me. I regret the whole thing happened. I was very emotional at the time,' he said.
He was not surprised by the severity of Choi's ban, saying: 'I expected it.' The HKFA refused to say what sort of action - if any - would be taken against the former Hong Kong captain and Footballer of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Lee retired from the international scene last year and only played against Macau as Hong Kong were short of players.
'We are awaiting the reports from the Macau FA and the referee. After we receive them we will decide if we have to take disciplinary action against Lee Kin-wo,' HKFA chief executive Jackson Yu said.
According to the Macau FA, the referee's report does not dwell on the incident. 'The fact that his report does not touch on the subject is in itself a serious matter. The whole affair goes against the spirit of sportsmanship and we have taken the necessary steps,' said Chui.
Chui, however, insisted the incident would not harm the relationship between the HKFA and Macau FA. 'The good friendship between us won't be tarnished and the Interport will still be held next year,' he said.
It is not known if Choi would also face international censure.
An AFC spokesman said his organisation would not comment until the matter had officially been brought to its attention.
'Disciplinary actions had been taken on players assaulting referees before but we cannot comment on this case,' the spokesman said. 'This is an issue for the Macau FA until it comes to us. It is a very rare incident and one that has never happened as far as the AFC is aware.'