Referee who sent Iraq star off for bizarre ‘grass-eating’ celebration is hit with vile online abuse as football authorities vow to support official at Asia Cup

Soccer Australia is backing Alireza Faghani after the referee was targeted online following his officiating of Iraq’s dramatic Asian Cup defeat to Jordan.

Meanwhile, a group of journalists who angrily confronted Iraq coach Jesus Casas during the post-match press conference had their accreditations withdrawn and were slapped with a ban by the Asian Football Confederation.

Iraq, who beat Japan en route to finishing top of their group, were in flying form in Qatar and looked set to reach the quarter-finals when Aymen Hussein put them 2-1 up in the 76th minute.

Hussein raced off and celebrated, then sat on the lawn pretending to eat – mimicking an earlier celebration by Yazan al-Naimat of Jordan, who scored the first goal.

Faghani gave the striker a second yellow card for excessive celebrations.

Alireza Faghani faced vile abuse on social media after Iraq's Asia Cup defeat

Alireza Faghani faced vile abuse on social media after Iraq’s Asia Cup defeat

The Aussie referee sent off Ayman Hussein for a bizarre goal celebration

The Aussie referee sent off Ayman Hussein for a bizarre goal celebration

A 10-man Iraq was left fuming and unable to hold on against Jordan, who scored in the 95th and 97th minutes to secure a dramatic 3-2 comeback win at the Khalifa International Stadium.

After the match, Iranian referee Faghani, who has been based in Australia since late 2019 and is listed among Australia’s referees for the Asian Cup, was heavily blamed by Iraqi fans online for their team’s defeat.

This included comments on social media, a petition calling for his suspension as a referee, and the posting of his personal details online.

Instagram also suspended his account after mass reports from Iraqi fans.

“The safety and well-being of all Football Australia staff and members of the Australian football community is our priority,” FA said in a statement.

“Soccer Australia is in constant contact with Alireza and is offering him and his family all the support they need.

“Football Australia is also working with e-Safety and relevant law enforcement agencies on this matter.”

The highly experienced referee Faghani is officiating at his fourth Asian Cup.

“While the AFC does not comment on individual referee performances, we strongly condemn any form of threat, harassment or disclosure of personal information targeting our referees, players, officials and all stakeholders,” the organization said.

The AFC added of the journalist ban: ‘The AFC strongly condemns any type of unruly and aggressive behavior and takes a zero tolerance stance against such behaviour.

The referee's Instagram account has reportedly been blocked due to reports from Iraq fans

The referee’s Instagram account has reportedly been blocked due to reports from Iraq fans

“The AFC is deeply disappointed by the conduct observed during the post-match press conference of the tie between Iraq and Jordan and has taken the swift decision to prevent the individuals responsible from not only covering the (current) Asian Cup but also future AFC tournaments .’

The Iraqi Football Association (IFA) lamented the scenes of Casas being harassed as more painful than their Asian Cup exit, and a ‘black mark’ on Iraqi media.

“We condemn the blatant and abhorrent behavior that took place against the coach and we confirm that we have decided not to deal with these media personnel who want to cause chaos in the future,” the IFA said.

“And we will pursue legal methods to restore the coach’s reputation, and approach the relevant authorities to explain what happened.”