Copa America faces imported problem
The Copa America is facing an imported refereeing controversy after hosts Venezuela notched their first win in the competition since 1967.
Ten days ago, Mexican referee Benito Armando Archundia was involved in a furious row when he disallowed a Canadian equaliser in the Gold Cup semi-final against hosts United States.
The Canadians were livid, not just at the decision but the fact that Archundia had been appointed at all, given that his own country Mexico were playing in the other semi-final.
You might have expected the authorities to tread carefully and keep Archundia out of the spotlight for a while yet on Saturday he popped up again at the Copa America, a competition which makes the Gold Cup look like a vicar’s tea party in comparison.
Once more, his match involved the tournament hosts, Venezuela, in a game against Peru they could not afford to lose. And you’ve guessed it — Archundia got into trouble again.
The tournament had been free of refereeing problems until Archundia decided to dismiss Peru’s Pedro Garcia in the 14th minute for elbowing, when all Garcia appeared to do was try and stop himself being kicked from behind by Giancarlo Maldonado.
Archundia then turned down a Peruvian penalty appeal — with Venezuela 1-0 ahead — and lost control altogether at the end of the game, which ended with ugly scuffles. Not content with that, he decided to go for a touch of the unusual when he booked Venezuela’s Alejandro Cichero for playing keepy-uppy — which he deemed ungentlemanly conduct.
South America has a good supply of officials used to dealing with the unique pressures of refeering on the continent. So bringing in an outsider seemed unnecessary in the first place.
But such controversies are nothing new. Remember the 1966 World Cup when England v Argentina was refereed by a German and Uruguay v Germany by an Englishman. Naturally, the South Americans were less than impressed when their teams lost both games.
Brian Homewood is covering the Copa America for Reuters in Venezuela