League hands out penalty for ‘Japanese Only’ display

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League hands out penalty for ‘Japanese Only’ display

After the public backlash over the “Japanese Only” incident during a Urawa Red Diamonds match last week at Saitama Stadium, the Japanese Football League penalized the team yesterday by banning all fans from its March 23 match.

On March 8, some Urawa fans displayed the Rising Sun flag of Imperial Japan along with a sign that read “Japanese Only” in English at the entrance of the stadium.

Korean media covered the story extensively, speculating that the message was intended for Korean-Japanese player Tadanari Lee, who joined the Red Diamonds in January.

Analyst Shin Mu-koeng noted that the incident highlighted “rising anti-Korean sentiments in Japan.”

A day after the match, the team apologized in a statement on its official website.

On Tuesday, Japanese Football League Chairman Mitsuru Murai demanded that Urawa President Keizo Fuchita conduct a “thorough investigation of the situation,” adding that the “Urawa Reds’ tepid response has exacerbated the problem.”

Japanese media had reported that the league would announce sanctions after scrutinizing statements and other materials submitted by the Red Diamonds.

“The Japanese Football League is keeping a wary eye on the problem, because it could tarnish the overall reputation of the J-League,” said Shin. “It is considering the recent precedent set by Korean Football League, as well.”

During a 2011 AFC Champions League match, some Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors fans displayed a Japanese placard that read “Congratulations on Japan’s great earthquake” in Jeonju World Cup Stadium.

At the time, Jeonbuk Hyundai immediately apologized via the team’s official website, and some supporters were banned from attending matches.

BY song ji-hoon [helena725@joongang.co.kr]

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