The Asian Football Confederation named 2009 as Asian Referees' Year, but the designation has carried little weight this season in the Cambodian Premier League (CPL), with many clubs reacting with venom to a number of decisions. Indeed, in the aftermath of a June 3 match between Phnom Penh Crown and Khemara Keila, assistant referee Yem Manoura was suspended for an error of judgement in disallowing a last-minute goal by Crown. On Saturday, Naga manager Lam Thiny was infuriated by match referee Toy Vicheka, as his team went down 2-1 to Khemara Keila. Toy seemed too liberal with his cards, critics said. Lam Thiny lambasted the sending off of his midfielder Friday Nwakuna with a straight red. "It should be a yellow card at worst, not a red card" Lam remarked. "You can see from the stands clearly that the Khemara manager was scolding the referee for sending off their player [Joel Omoraka earlier]. He put pressure on the referee, that's why he sent my player off, to balance the game up." Khemara manager Salang Kang saw things differently, applauding the official. "For me no problem," said Salang, protesting his innocence of intimidation tactics. "The referee did well, and we deserved to win."
Cambodian referee instructor Tetsu Karakida of Japan absolved Toy Vicheka, suggesting that clubs and players should share the blame. "A referee is in a no-win situation," Tetsu said. "He is abused by players, spectators, everybody." The referees' chief said that part of the problem lies in the way the rules are interpreted, but clarified that systems and programmes are in place to help referees improve. Those include monthly sessions for CPL referees, in which games are analyzed. "I didn't see the second red card clearly," admitted Tetsu. "But the first was the correct decision. The referee [Toy Vicheka] maintained good positioning in the match, so I think he was in the right position to make the decision. "Both set of players were hot. They were quite temperamental, so the referee had to calm things down using his cards."