Wanderers fans at Sydney Airport.
Wanderers fans at Sydney Airport. PAUL MILLER AAP

Saudi grapes at AFC loss sticks in throat

WHAT a week it has been for Western Sydney Wanderers.

Winning the Asia Champions League and then returning to an amazing welcome at Sydney Airport by hordes of their adoring fans.

Sadly, those celebrations have been tarnished by the constant whinging from their final opponent, Al-Hilal, and frankly, and I am sure I am not on my own in thinking this, it's time to shut up and get on with it.

For officials of the Saudi Arabian club to demand Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa start an investigation into the officiating of Japanese Yuichi Nishimura is nothing short of disrespectful, not only to the competition but to Western Sydney, especially considering the way some of its players reacted during and after the final last weekend.

Perhaps the club should be looking in its own backyard before it starts throwing around accusations of wrongdoing, saying Nishimura's decisions "appeared suspicious and tarnished the reputation of the AFC, which raised many questions about the AFC Championships and the integrity and fairness of its competitions".

There is no doubt the Wanderers were lucky with penalty decisions not given last week, but that happens in games.

What shouldn't happen is Al-Hilal player Nasser Al-Shamrani appearing to headbutt and later spit on Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic.

So perhaps now is the time for Al-Hilal to give it up before the AFC starts to look at the way its players handled themselves.

Quite frankly, I am surprised nothing has happened regarding Al-Shamrani by now.

What he did was nothing short of disgraceful and some might say Luis Suarez' actions in the World Cup were not as bad - and look what happened to him.

To question the integrity of the Champions League just because a couple of decisions didn't go your way is a bit like the kid at school taking his ball and going home because he can't win.

No club has a divine right to be successful, and Al-Hilal's response to defeat has been nothing short of ridiculous. Some might say the way club officials have reacted is bringing the game into disrepute.

The result is not going to change, so now's the time to just let it go.

Through it all, one thing for me has stood out and that is the professionalism of all concerned at the Wanderers.

From Spiranovic, who did not react through the most severe provocation, to Popovic pulling his players away so they did not get involved in the ugly aftermath in Riyadh, the Wanderers have shown great resolve and dignity.

When asked this week on his thoughts about Al-Hilal's description of the finals as a "black spot in the history of Asian football", Popovic was reserved in reply, telling Sky Sports Radio: "When you lose, some teams and some clubs take it differently.

"That's been their approach and it's of no interest to us. We're not really concerned by their words at the moment. We're the champions, we've earnt that."

My sentiments too, Mr Popovic.

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