THE TECHNICAL GLITCH that botched the Cambodia national anthem during their AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifier match against India had to be addressed even at the diplomatic level, according to reports.
The match, held at Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, had a major faux-pas during the pre-match national anthem ceremony. Cambodia, being the visiting team, were to have their anthem played first. But even after the stadium announcer asked everyone to rise for Cambodia's anthem, the speakers played the Indian national anthem instead.
To make matters worse, when after India's anthem stadium officials tried to play the Cambodian anthem, they could not do it. For about five minutes, the whole arena waited for the anthem to be played as officials were seen moving about frantically behind the reserve benches.
At one point, the frustrated Cambodia players broke their formation and started doing warm-up exercises. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri was seen talking to Cambodia players, perhaps apologizing for the mishap. It was then that an instrumental version of the anthem was finally played on the speakers. Although in an addtional glitch, the Cambodian national flag disappeared from the giant screen.
This incident looked particularly bad because earlier in the day the Cambodia team had complained about their accommodation and food. There was also an incident over Cambodia's flag (A physical one). After the Cambodian team had failed to bring their own flag, a last-minute replacement was produced which had certain design elements wrong. AFC even wrote a letter to Cambodia FA expressing regret over the situation, and decided none of the teams would have physical flags present on the field during the national anthems; instead the players would face the national flag graphic on the giant screen while they sing their anthem.
So it goes without saying that the glitches while playing the national anthem added more fire to an already incendiary situation.
To make sure things don't get any worse, India's ambassador to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade called up Sao Sokha, President of the Football Federation of Cambodia, to personally apologize for what happened. This was reported by a Cambodian news website called Fresh News Asia.
Further, the court-appointed Committee of Administrators who are presently in charge of All India Football Federation (AIFF) have also responded to the situation by sending their own official to Kolkata to make sure the situation is calmed down.
It goes without saying that the whole episode was not only embarrassing to the organizers but reflected badly on the host country India as well. It's extremely rare for the Indian government to have to intervene in a situation where a sporting event threatens to create a diplomatic crisis.