Moldovan refs threaten to boycott matches over alleged intimidation
Thirty-four Ã¢ÂÂ the number of Moldovan referees whose names appeared on a missive sent to the FederaÃ Â£ia MoldoveneascÃÂ de Fotbal at the weekend threatening to withdraw their services from fixtures involving either Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu or Zimbru ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu.
It comes after two officials allege they faced intimidation ahead of crucial matches at the top of the Divisia NaÃ Â£ionalÃÂ.
Ã¢ÂÂI was told that if I didnÃ¢ÂÂt follow certain decisions in that match something could happen to my family,Ã¢ÂÂ said Vlad Ivancenco on Moldovan television last week, describing a text message the 42-year-old claims to have received prior to taking charge of league leaders Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂuÃ¢ÂÂs game against Rapid Ghidighici.
Gheorghe Malinovschii replaced Ivancenco at the Stadionul SÃÂtesc last week for the 0-0 draw, with the latter announcing his retirement from the game.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a clear threat to my family so I decided to stop right away. IÃ¢ÂÂve already informed the national federation about my decision,Ã¢ÂÂ he revealed.
Not the only one to speak out, IvancencoÃ¢ÂÂs compatriot Ghennady Sidenco also complained of intimidation, more specifically from someone attached to Zimbru ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu in a phone call on the eve of the Moldovan El ClÃÂ¡sico between Igor DobrovolskiyÃ¢ÂÂs side and Sheriff Tiraspol, and revealed he had ordered his wife and daughter not to leave their family home on the day of the match.
These are claims the eight-times champions - along with the other three clubs - vehemently deny, and they have threatened the FIFA official with legal action if he does not issue an apology.
The 38-year-old did officiate Zimbru ChiÃ ÂinÃÂuÃ¢ÂÂs 1-0 win in the derby, but informed the FMF afterwards he no longer wished to be considered for the remainder of the season, claiming it would be impossible to work under such pressure from clubs.
Sidenco and Ivancenco were surprising choices for such pivotal fixtures.
Ivancenco, who was issued with a two-match ban last year for poor refereeing, was the man in the middle for Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂuÃ¢ÂÂs 0-0 draw with Milsami Orhei earlier in the season when Sidenco entered his dressing room at half-time to discuss the game, something he himself was disqualified for.
Sidenco also sent off Zimbru ChisinauÃ¢ÂÂs Vadim Cravcescu in their 1-0 defeat at Sheriff Tiraspol on matchday 29.
Ivancenco may not have been the man in the middle, but Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂuÃ¢ÂÂs draw with Rapid Ghidighici still not without controversy. Dacia had wanted to film the match from five different positions to analyse replacement referee MalinovschiiÃ¢ÂÂs performance from every angle, but two days before the match a notice appeared on RapidÃ¢ÂÂs website stating that representatives from the media could only bring one camera; not that it stopped Dacia from appraising MalinovschiiÃ¢ÂÂs performance, with the club posting YouTube clips of controversial decisions on their own website after the game.
This piece of playacting from Tudor Starciuc was hardly the most convincing youÃ¢ÂÂll see this season, but it didnÃ¢ÂÂt even warrant a yellow cardÃ¢ÂÂ¦
They claim Baba Collins wasn't offside hereÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Dacia Chisinau question why advantage wasn't played after this foulÃ¢ÂÂ¦
And they queried what infringement Malinovschii spotted here...
This offside irked them somewhatÃ¢ÂÂ¦
These are certainly very interesting times for Moldovan football.
Sheriff Tiraspol have been Divisia NaÃ Â£ionalÃÂ champions 10 seasons running but currently sit second, four points behind Rohan RickettsÃ¢ÂÂ former side Dacia Chisinau with five games remaining in a campaign blighted by controversy that has also seen the Ministry of Internal Affairs called in.
Transparency InternationalÃ¢ÂÂs corruption perception index last year ranked Moldova 105th in the world and rumours and accusations of wrong-doing have been flying about throughout the season.
The owners of both Olimpia BÃÂlÃ Â£i and Nistru Otaci threatened to withdraw their teams from the championship amid refereeing controversies, while Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu sent a formal letter of complaint to Prime Minister Vlad Filat earlier this month.
Sheriff Tiraspol had the chance to close the gap to a point with a win against Academia UTM ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu yesterday afternoon, but slipped to a 1-0 defeat. Whether itÃ¢ÂÂs Andrei SosnitskiÃ¢ÂÂs side claiming an 11th league title in a row or current leaders Dacia ChiÃ ÂinÃÂu winning their first, for many people, this will be a season remembered for what happened off the pitch, rather than on it.