|Trần Tiến Dũng walks away after spitting in the face of the referee. Photo thanhnien.vn
Nobody likes a referee, but the men in the middle do deserve our respect.
Anybody willing to subject themselves to the stick that officials get just so we can enjoy our football fix has unique comportment and beyond our respect, they also deserve our protection.
Sadly, I think Vietnamese referees have been let down by football authorities here in that regard.
Last Tuesday, Hải Phòng defeated Bình Định 3-1 to briefly go top of the V.League 1, but it wasn’t the action on the pitch that made headlines.
Despite the fact that his team came away with a two-goal win at home, Hải Phòng fan Trần Tiến Dũng managed to get onto the pitch after the match, grab referee Hoàng Ngọc Hà and proceeded to spit in his face.
The shocking incident was all caught on camera and Dũng has since been banned from attending football matches in Việt Nam for three years.
Hải Phòng, meanwhile, have been fined VNĐ70 million (US$2,992) and will play their next match this Friday behind closed doors for the lapse in security at Lạch Tray Stadium that allowed the incident to occur.
While the speed at which Dũng was punished was commendable, it’s the lenient nature of his ban that has let Vietnamese officials down.
Three years may seem to some a reasonable punishment and maybe it would be, if Dũng hadn’t previously received a criminal conviction for assaulting a referee.
According to zingnews.vn, in 2012, Dũng received a 12-month suspended prison sentence for assaulting a referee near a highway toll booth.
At the time, referee Võ Minh Trí was returning from officiating a game involving Hải Phòng, when his car pulled over past the toll station in Tiền Giang Province and was discovered by some travelling Hải Phòng fans.
Dũng and another person then rushed into the car the referee was travelling in and assaulted him.
Frankly, it beggars belief that this man is going to be back on the terraces in 36 short months, if not sooner based on how lax security can be at V.League 1 matches.
I’m not suggesting we lock him up and throw away the key but after twice showing he has no compunction when it comes to assailing referees, why should he enjoy the privilege of taking in a football match in this country?
Aside from the horrible example this lax punishment sets, it also puts referees like Hoàng Ngọc Hà in a horrible position. How can they do their job to the best of their ability without real protection from thugs like Dũng?
We can only hope that the next time something like this happens someone isn’t seriously hurt, as that’s what’s at risk without stronger deterrence. VNS