Cash-strapped Indonesian side Persibo laid themselves open to accusations of an appalling lack of sportsmanship last night when their AFC Cup match against Sunray Cave Sun Hei at Mong Kok Stadium was abandoned midway through the second half last night, with the visitors trailing 8-0 and down to six men.
With Sun Hei looking set to rack up their best score in international competition, Persibo players started falling like skittles after minimal contact with their opponents until they only had six players on the pitch. Seven is the minimum a side can continue playing with and referee Chaiya Mahapab of Thailand was left no option but to stop the match with 25 minutes left, and he awarded the match to the hosts.
Disgruntled fans accused the visitors of cheating as Persibo players walked off, while Sun Hei captain Roberto Afonso Jnr was furious with their opponents' attitude.
"It's a shame on them," said the Brazilian. "No one believed their players were injured. They just did not want to continue."
Before the match, reports circulated that the Indonesians did not want to play in Hong Kong due to financial problems. The side only arrived in Hong Kong yesterday morning, whereas the normal practice would have been for them to have arrived on Sunday, and then it was as a threadbare squad of just 12 players.
Their coach Gusnul Yakin apologised in the post-match interview, saying their players were affected by their late arrival on the morning of the match.
"Sorry, this game was not good," he said. "We only arrived this morning and my players' condition is not good. We have three players suspended for this match while another three players failed to obtain a valid visa to Hong Kong and that's why we only had 12 players here."
Asked about the apparent lack of sportsmanship, Yakin blamed the club's poor financial situation, saying they had no money and no sponsors.
It is understood the Indonesian football association stood to be fined heavily if their side did not turn up to meet its obligations, and it has been suggested that pressure had in turn been put on Persibo to play the match.
Sun Hei coach Chiu Chun-man was upset. "We have heard many times about the lack of sportsmanship of Indonesian teams but did not expect it to happen with us," said Chiu.
The match commissioner's report is expected to be reviewed by the Asian Football Confederation.