SINGAPORE - A referee was allegedly hit in the face after he showed a red card to a player in a National Football League (NFL) Division One fixture between Gymkhana FC and Katong FC at Yishun Stadium on Sunday evening (Oct 21).
Witnesses revealed that the card was shown to a Gymkhana player at about the 80th minute of the game, with the referee, 37-year-old Lim Si Seng, receiving a blow to his face and neck after a crowd had formed around him.
The match was allowed to continue after fourth official Taufk Thana replaced Lim, who sat on the sidelines for the remainder of the fixture. The game ended with Katong running out 3-0 winners, police called to the scene, and Lim taken to hospital.
Gymkhana president Patrick Francis told The Straits Times that the club concluded its investigations on Monday afternoon, and has already taken action against the player.
"The player involved was Jufri Hassan, and after he was sent off, he dropped his jersey in the changing room and left the stadium before the police arrived," said Francis. "Our committee met earlier this afternoon, and we have decided to sack him, and impose a life ban - he will never play for the club again."
"He was a former professional player, and he should know what kind of behaviour is expected. These things cannot happen in Singapore football, and we will accept whatever punishment the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) metes out," added Francis, who revealed that he has given the authorities Jufri's contact number to aid investigations.
This is not the first time that an alleged player assault on a referee has hit the headlines.
In a PSA Football League game at the PSA Club's Telok Blangah Road facilities on Dec 4 2014, a player of PSA's Container Logistics Department stamped on the referee's thigh and punched him after receiving a red card.
For his violence on the pitch, the player was jailed for 10 months after pleading guilty to one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
The court also ordered him to pay $2,000 in compensation for attacking referee Mohd Asadullah, who required reconstructive surgery on his nose.
This is also not the first instance of violence in the NFL - which is for amateurs - this season.
During a Division Two fixture on Sept 12 at the Jalan Besar Stadium, a Kembangan United player allegedly throw a punch at his Admiralty Community Sports Club (CSC) opponent. This allegedly took place in full view of the chairmen of Singapore Premier League clubs who had assembled at the Football Association of Singapore's Jalan Besar headquarters for a meeting.
Admiralty team manager Zulkiflee Zainal revealed that while he did not see the alleged punch that happened on the left side of the pitch, his players have already written their statements and submitted them to the FAS.
"I've heard about (Sunday) night's incident, and we cannot accept any kind of violence in football," he said. "As a club, we're very strict with behaviour and discipline - there will be no hooliganism brought onto the field. As a league we have to cut this out."
The Kembangan incident came in the wake of last year's Nov 12 brawl between Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association and their NFL Division One rivals Yishun Sentek Mariners. There were punches and kicks thrown, and all this was captured on video.
Champions Yishun were fined $5,000 and started the defence of their NFL title with a five-point deduction. Eight of their players were hit with fines ranging from $300 to $1,000 and suspensions ranging from four to 15 months.
Two players received the harshest punishment of a 15-month suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Safsa, on the other hand, received no sanctions but three of their players were punished. One player was let off with a stern warning, while two others were suspended for four months and fined $300 each.
"I don't understand how (Sunday's incident) can happen, it's very sad," said Katong team official Andy Tan. "I'm very concerned about player safety, especially because it's already so difficult to convince parents to allow their kids to play in the NFL. And if we want football to improve, we all have to play our part."
FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari declined to go into details because the matter is currently under investigation, but he said: "The FAS takes a very serious view on any behaviour that taints the sport, and brings it into disrepute. The FAS will take strong action against the perpetrators, and protect our match officials from any form of abuse, let alone assault. We have offered support to the referee following the Sunday incident, and the disciplinary process is underway."