Tokyo: Japan captain Makoto Hasebe on Monday stood by team-mate Keisuke Honda after the AC Milan midfielder was fined for criticising the standard of refereeing at the Asian Cup.
Honda, Japan`s spiky cult hero, was hit with a $5,000 fine for an outburst following the team`s 4-0 win over Palestine.
Japan coach Javier Aguirre said the matter had been dealt with internally but Hasebe came out in support of Honda`s comments, claiming the Blue Samurai were "confused" by the way games are being officiated at the tournament.
"We all know what Keisuke is talking about," Hasebe told reporters before Tuesday`s final group game against Jordan in Melbourne.
"Obviously Japan have many players at top-level sides in Europe, and to be honest there is a gap between the level (of refereeing) there and at the Asian Cup.
"The Japan players all feel the same as Keisuke," added the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder. "But there are a lot of things in life we don`t agree with and we have no option but to accept it."
Honda was punished for slamming Qatari referee Abdulrahman Hussain, questioning whether he had been umpiring a basketball game in a rant dripping with sarcasm.
"As soon as we made contact with them, the referee blew the whistle," he fumed. "They need to do something about the level of refereeing here."
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was fined $3,000 after launching a withering attack on Australian referee Ben Williams, accusing him of being "out of his depth".
Refereeing standards have long been a bugbear of Asian football but a determined improvement drive by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has led to improvements.
However, inconsistencies remain and at last year`s World Cup, Japan`s Yuichi Nishimura came under fire for awarding a controversial penalty in Brazil`s first game against Croatia, a decision which lit up social media.
After the AFC Champions League final in November, Nishimura was heavily criticised again by Saudi club Al Hilal after they were denied several strong penalty appeals.
Hasebe, set to make a record 56th appearance as Japan captain against Jordan, revealed that the players had held a meeting to discuss the issue after beating Iraq 1-0 in their second Group D game.
"You don`t go into games thinking the refereeing will influence how you play or worry about money (fines)," said Hasebe. "But for those of us used to playing in Europe, honestly speaking the standard of refereeing is confusing.
"That said, we think we`ve figured it out over the last two games so we will be able to adapt."