I-League champions Chennai City FC have alleged racist remarks towards their Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa by Sri Lankan referee Lakmal Weerakkody, and have raised the issue with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match commissioner and Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) officials.
The alleged incident occurred during a heated 3-2 defeat at the hands of Bangladesh League club Bashundara Kings, in the Sheikh Kamal Invitational Cup in Chattogram, Bangladesh on Thursday.
Chennai, one of three Indian clubs in the eight-team tournament, had lost their opening match to Malaysian side Terengganu FC, and needed at least a point to stay alive in the competition, where they are grouped alongside fellow I-League club Gokulam Kerala.
Katsumi was one of two Chennai players sent off by Weerakkody, who also sent off both coaches -- Akbar Nawas of Chennai City, and Spaniard Oscar Bruzon of Bashundhara Kings.
"I think the federation must investigate the decision he [Weerakkody] made today. So, I don't know what happened where our Japanese player was sent off. The referee made a racist remark," said Chennai assistant coach Satyasagara, addressing the media after the game. According to Satyasagara, the referee's comments moved the midfielder to tears.
"The referee made a racist remark, calling him 'China'. He was emotionally down, and when he went to the dressing room, he cried. Katsumi, some of you know, the Japanese are very disciplined, emotional people and he (the referee) shouldn't have done that."
Satyasagara said that Chennai were contemplating withdrawing from the match after Katsumi was given the marching orders around the half-hour mark, after which play was held up for about 12 minutes.
"Because of our foreign players and [because] we wanted to play, to satisfy the organisation, we decided to play on."
A little later in the match -- which saw Chennai draw level through Pedro Manzi, I-League's top scorer from last season -- both coaches were also shown red cards, and Satyasagara claimed that Bruzon had strayed into the Chennai technical area to provoke a reaction.
After defender Robert Eslava was shown a second yellow card in the 69th minute with Chennai trailing 2-1, Mashoor Sheriff brought the scores level with an opportunistic strike, but the two-man disadvantage would prove to be Chennai's undoing, as striker Mohamad Kdouh scored his second goal of the match to lead Bashundara to victory.
"I think these two red cards we got were because of the referee. He directly influenced the game, I don't know why," said Satyasagara. "The Bangladesh team are a good team, they played against Kerala and they fought well. We appreciate the team.
"For me, it's not about the opposition, this is about the referee and how he disrupted the game."
A BFF spokesman said they would take a decision after analysing the match report in due course, but the AFC appointed match commissioner declined to make any comments.