Gold Cup referee blunders `human error`: CONCACAF

Gold Cup referee blunders `human error`: CONCACAF

CONCACAF chiefs defended the referee at the centre of the Gold Cup officiating controversy on Saturday, saying that mistakes made during Panama`s stormy semi-final defeat to Mexico were "human error."

American referee Mark Geiger has faced stinging criticism from Panamanian players and officials over a series of game-changing calls during their team`s 2-1 loss to the Mexicans on Wednesday.

Alfredo Hawit, acting president of the governing body for football in North & Central America and the Caribbean, said CONCACAF officials had discussed the semi-final in a meeting with Geiger and referee chiefs.

"Mr Geiger, one of the best regarded referees in the region with vast international experience and a proven track record, accepted that officiating errors had been made during Wednesday`s match and that these impacted the outcome of the game," Hawit said.

"We at CONCACAF regret these circumstances but accept that such human errors are part of the game."

Both Panama and Costa Rica had lodged formal complaints with CONCACAF over refereeing during this year`s Gold Cup.

Geiger, who refereed at last year`s World Cup in Brazil, was criticised for sending off Panama`s Luis Tejada early in the game, and then faced a storm of protest for awarding Mexico a dubious penalty for handball in the dying minutes which denied Panama a famous win.

Many Panamanian media outlets and commentators claimed the decisions were part of a plot to ensure that Mexico reached the final of the competition to ensure a bigger television audience.

Panama`s disgusted players even held up banner reading "CONCACAF thieves!", with "corruptos" written beneath it three times.

Wednesday`s match was disrupted for around 10 minutes as players protested Geiger`s decision to award a penalty to Mexico which allowed El Tri to equalise and take the game to extra time.

The controversy comes with CONCACAF`s reputation at an all-time low in the wake of the US-led inquiry into global football corruption which led to FIFA chief Sepp Blatter`s decision to step down.

CONCACAF`s President Jeffrey Webb was one of several officials arrested in Zurich in May on corruption charges.

He was later extradited to the United States where he has been released on bail.

The Gold Cup reaches its climax on Sunday when Jamaica face Mexico in the final.

The United States play Panama in a third place match later Saturday.