Moldovan refs threaten to boycott matches over alleged intimidation

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Thirty-four – the number of Moldovan referees whose names appeared on a missive sent to the Federaţia Moldovenească de Fotbal at the weekend threatening to withdraw their services from fixtures involving either Dacia Chişinău or Zimbru Chişinău.

It comes after two officials allege they faced intimidation ahead of crucial matches at the top of the Divisia Naţională.

“I was told that if I didn’t follow certain decisions in that match something could happen to my family,” 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 Chişinău’s game against Rapid Ghidighici.

Gheorghe Malinovschii replaced Ivancenco at the Stadionul Sătesc last week for the 0-0 draw, with the latter announcing his retirement from the game.

“It was a clear threat to my family so I decided to stop right away. I’ve already informed the national federation about my decision,” he revealed.

Not the only one to speak out, Ivancenco’s compatriot Ghennady Sidenco also complained of intimidation, more specifically from someone attached to Zimbru Chişinău in a phone call on the eve of the Moldovan El Clásico between Igor Dobrovolskiy’s 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 Chişinău’s 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 Chişinău’s 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 Chisinau’s 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 Chişinău’s draw with Rapid Ghidighici still not without controversy. Dacia had wanted to film the match from five different positions to analyse replacement referee Malinovschii’s performance from every angle, but two days before the match a notice appeared on Rapid’s website stating that representatives from the media could only bring one camera; not that it stopped Dacia from appraising Malinovschii’s 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 you’ll see this season, but it didn’t even warrant a yellow card…

They claim Baba Collins wasn't offside here…

Dacia Chisinau question why advantage wasn't played after this foul…

And they queried what infringement Malinovschii spotted here...

And here…

Plus here…

This offside irked them somewhat…

These are certainly very interesting times for Moldovan football.

Sheriff Tiraspol have been Divisia Naţională champions 10 seasons running but currently sit second, four points behind Rohan Ricketts’ 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 International’s 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 Bălţi and Nistru Otaci threatened to withdraw their teams from the championship amid refereeing controversies, while Dacia Chişinău 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 Chişinău yesterday afternoon, but slipped to a 1-0 defeat. Whether it’s Andrei Sosnitski’s side claiming an 11th league title in a row or current leaders Dacia Chişinău winning their first, for many people, this will be a season remembered for what happened off the pitch, rather than on it.