'I thought referee was going to book me' (February 3, 2007 )

The Singaporean football player who was awarded a penalty thinks the spot kick should not have been given, as he makes a revelation:

Noh Alam Shah, the Singapore striker awarded a controversial penalty fiercely protested at by the Thai squad, has admitted he thinks the spot kick should not have been given.

The foul led to Singapore scoring the decisive goal in an ill-tempered Asean Football Championship final first leg.

Wednesday's heated contest ended dramatically after Malaysian referee C Ravichandran awarded the disputed penalty eight minutes from time. The hosts converted to take a 2-1 advantage into Sunday's second leg in Bangkok.

Alam Shah tumbled in the box as he and Thailand defender Niweat Siriwong jostled for the ball from a left-side free kick. Alam Shah appeared to fall accidentally.

The referee's decision plunged the game into turmoil. The Thai players vociferously protested and walked off for about 15 minutes.

"I was stunned. I did not expect a penalty," Alam Shah is quoted in Singapore's Straits Times yesterday.

"When I first saw the referee walking towards me I thought he was going to book me," he said. Alam Shah would have missed Sunday's leg if he had been yellow-carded.

The penalty also surprised Alam Shah's team mates.

Shahril Ishak, near Alam Shah when he went down, said: "I was preparing to go back to my own half, because I thought a free-kick would be given to the Thais."

Nigerian-born defender Precious Emuejeraye agreed: "I thought the referee was going to book Alam Shah for a foul."

"I was surprised when he pointed to the spot instead," said the burly centre-half.

The Asean Football Championship second-leg showdown between Thailand and defending champions Singapore will go ahead as scheduled, but the Thai team still faces possible action for its protest from the Asean Football Federation (AFF), which meets tomorrow.

The AFF is examining match-commissioner and referee-inspector reports of a game tainted by dubious decisions.

Once the regional body delivers its decision to the Asian Football Confederation the latter will decide if there will be further action.

The controversial first-leg result has served only to stir up emotion in Thailand amid growing bad-blood between the two countries following the diplomatic spat over a recent visit by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the city-state.

A hostile atmosphere is expected in Bangkok, and the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) will beef up security at the game.

FAT honorary life president Chaiyapak Siriwat said 500 security officers would be present. He insisted Thailand would do its utmost to prevent incidents before, during and after the game. Special attention will be given to the safety of Singapore's players and travelling fans.

"The second leg has become a volatile issue which we must handle carefully, considering every aspect. I would like Thai fans to be good hosts," Chaiyapak said.

"What's done is done. We don't want the second match to end in the same manner. Player morale is good, and I believe we will win and win in a manner Thai fans can be proud of.

"Given the performance we gave in the first game, I'm convinced we are better than they are," said Chaiyapak.

However, reports in Singapore suggest fans there are worried about the uproar in this country and have cancelled travel plans.

The dust has yet to settle. A report in Thai-language newspaper Siam Sport claimed the result had been fixed so Singapore could profit from bets and fund multibillion-dollar sports developments as its prepares for a 2014 Commonwealth Games bid.

Sports Desk

The Nation