Derbi Azar and Yooyuball Referee: No Relation
Recent allegations of improper bias on the part of the Yooyuball referee appear to be groundless.
Last week, an anonymous source within the Roo Island organization pointed to a resemblance between the referee and Derbi Azar, the speedy forward for rival team Lost Desert.
The Lost Desert (11-8-1), described by the media as a "low-key" team, has been making a surprising run in the third Altador Cup, only dropping one match as of the publication date.
"I realize the resemblance is uncanny," Azar said, in a written response issued through a representative. "However, we are not related to the best of my knowledge, and in fact do not even know each other. If I learned that he was making calls on my behalf simply because we are both Scorchios, I would be crushed. I speak for all my Lost Desert teammates when I say we have earned every victory through effort and teamwork. We do not need any kind of external help to cement a win against any team in the league."
Azar and her teammates have had conflicts in the past, but this new team seems to get along like a house on fire. When asked about her teammates, she had only complimentary things to say, despite the fact that teammate Vonde Cayle is currently the team's leading scorer. "You especially have to hand it to Lamelle [Turow]. As a rookie, he's making great strides in a sport traditionally dominated by those Neopets with legs." She added with a laugh, "His bouncing has become much better since we began training as a team. He even scored a goal in our first match against Faerieland."
Just as surprising, Cayle jumped to the defense of his teammate and rival. "We might have different philosophies when it comes to Yooyuball," he said, "but she would never cheat. To accuse her of doing so is ridiculous."
Azar declined to express her personal feelings on Roo Island's (17-2-1) allegations, but team captain Leera Heggle stated that he did not blame Roo Island for having concerns. "I'd want to know if there was anything improper occurring as well," he stated after the team's game against Virtupets Space Station.
Heggle added that he was glad his teammates were getting along, since the job of a captain is made much easier when a team is working together. He attributed the change over the past two years to the easy going nature of both defenders.
The Altador Cup Committee was quick to respond with an investigation. "We take accusations like these very seriously," a representative stated at yesterday's press conference. "The Altador Cup Committee is committed to the ideal of fairness and to seeing that the winner of the Altador Cup is truly the best Yooyuball team on the field." The Committee's investigation turned up no relationship between the two Scorchios. "If there is a relationship, it's very distant. We examined both family trees for four generations. Our referee does not even hail from the Lost Desert, and was selected by the Committee because of his experience and known impartiality."
He went on to add that the Committee has reviewed films of matches in which the Lost Desert was involved, supplied graciously by the Neopian Broadcasting Network (better known as NBN). No evidence of biased playcalling was discovered in the viewings.
He was quick to turn the press conference to promoting the Altador Cup. "Weren't the dual matches between the Lost Desert and Meridell, and Krawk Island and Roo Island amazing? We couldn't have planned it better - it's funny how these things work out sometimes."
The Neopian Times conducted its own investigations and reached the same conclusion, based on similar findings. The Times also interviewed acquaintances and friends of both the referee and Azar; no witnesses could be located that had evidence the two know each other.
In addition, the Neopian Times conducted a survey of fans and players; a very small percentage felt that the referee showed unfair bias towards the Lost Desert. 75% of players and 58% of fans thought that the refereeing has been reasonably impartial. An additional 10% of fans had no opinion or didn't notice the refereeing. 1% of players and 5% of fans thought the refereeing was poor but that it showed no particular bias, and less than 1% of both groups felt that the referee was biased towards the Lost Desert.
Perennial MVP candidate Lilo Blumario of Roo Island said he thought bias was "unlikely" but he was glad the Altador Cup Committee conducted an investigation. "You just never know. Some teams will do anything to win." He added that in their next matchup, Roo Island would win no matter what. "And I'll score at least four goals myself," he promised. "And [fellow forward] Jair Tollet will have at least two."
Reactions from other players and fans were mixed. "I knew there was something shady about that Azar," one Techo fan said, clutching his Roo Island water bottle close protectively. "She's going to steal my pennant, isn't she? Do you know how hard it was to get it signed by the entire Roo Island team?"
Mirsha Grelinek of Shenkuu approached the accusations from a different angle. "It's still hard to be a female neopet who plays sports," she said. Grelinek feels that there is bias against female neopets in the Yooyuball world, especially on teams from older, more traditional worlds, like the Lost Desert and Roo Island. "There are some neopets who still feel that we can only get on a yooyuball team by cheating, or by joining a weak team."
At least three players think the Committee should be investigating Elon "The Black Hole" Hughlis and the Maraquan Yooyuball team instead. All three spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don't want to be tied up and left in a closet by mysterious hooded figures just before an important match," one stated.
Nitri Cassale of Krawk Island may have summed the situation up the best: "The referee isn't perfect and he can't see everything that's happening on the Yooyuball field. He's going to make some mistakes, but the fans and players all have to remember that he's as skilled as the players at what he does and that if one missed call ruins the game, the players are not the Yooyuballers they claim to be."