A Qarabag player scored a goal on Saturday, but the referee inexplicably disallowed it. The coach then ordered his scorer to admit that he did in fact score and continue play.
Ibrahima Wadji was urged by Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov to tell the referee that he had touched the ball. Getty Images/Resul Rehimov/Anadolu Agency
UEFA applauded FK Qarabag’s demonstration of sportsmanship in their Europa Conference League playoff against Marseille on Thursday, when they had a goal disallowed after Ibrahima Wadji acknowledged to scoring with his hand.
Pape Gueye scored the goal after 12 minutes at Qarabag’s Azersun Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan, putting Marseille 3-0 up on aggregate following the first leg at their Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France.
With 34 minutes left on the clock, Wadji leapt high at the near post to beat Marseille goalkeeper Steven Mandanda, bringing the score to 1-1 for the night. However, replays immediately indicated that the Senegalese striker had used his hand rather than his head to direct the ball into the Marseille goal. Officials missed the event, and since there was no VAR (video assistance referee) system in existence at the time, the goal was allowed to stand.
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Marseille players instantly gathered around referee Bartosz Frankowski to protest the goal for many minutes, claiming that Wadji’s goal was not valid, but they were unsuccessful.
Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov eventually took action to calm the matter, summoning Wadji and team captain Maksim Medvedev to the sidelines. Gurbanov encouraged his scorer to admit to authorities that he had touched the ball when he scored after a quick discussion. The goal was chalked off and Marseille was handed a free kick to continue play with the score reset to 1-0 when Wadji came to the field and admitted his mistake to referee Frankowski.
Marseille, who had been relegated from the Europa League after finishing third, won 3-0 on the night and 6-1 on aggregate.
“It was tough because I had to talk to my captain,” Wadji said after the game to French network RMC Sport. “I was aware that the ball had made contact with my hand. But that wasn’t something I wanted to do. My head was accompanied by my hand. I had a conversation with [Medvedev]. I admitted to touching the ball with my hand. I told my teammates that I touched the ball with my hand when they asked.
“After that, we had a conversation with the coach.” When the coach inquired about my thoughts, I informed him that I had touched the ball with my hand. ‘It’s not good, you have to accept responsibility, you have to talk to the referee,’ he added. The goal was overturned by the referee. My teammates, on the other hand, found it tough since we wanted to at least win the game. For them, it’s tough because they wanted to win, and I gave them the truth.
“After that, Marseille thanked me. My Senegalese brothers, Papa [Gueye] and Bamba [Dieng], and I traded jerseys.”
Marseille players disputed the goal being awarded to Qarabag and the game was paused for many minutes. Getty Images/Resul Rehimov/Anadolu Agency
“Answering questions about the cancelled goal will now be the toughest for me,” Qarabag coach Gurbanov stated in his postmatch press conference. “I don’t want this to be talked a lot.”
“I wanted to be an authentic Azerbaijani. I inquired of the player, who said that he scored with his hand. Making reasonable judgments is simple.”
When questioned about the disallowed goal, Gurbanov’s Marseille rival, Jorge Sampaoli, expressed appreciation while admitting that if the scenario were reversed, he may not have made the same decision.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” he remarked. “In a tournament of this caliber, such a kind choice.”
“To be honest, if this occurred to me, I wouldn’t urge the referee to overturn the decision; instead, I’d be satisfied with the goal. This instance turned into a learning opportunity for me.”
UEFA’s deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti said Qarabag’s act merited recognition and called it as “a truly great occasion” before of Friday’s Europa Conference League round of 16 draw, which matched Marseille against FC Basel.