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Quick response to racist displays in Japan

Urawa Reds punished

23 March ~ There was some controversy to the second round of the new J-League season in the shape of an incident at the March 8 game between giants Urawa Reds and Sagan Tosu at Reds' home Saitama Stadium. During the match photographs started circulating on Twitter of a banner hung in the bowels of the stand over the entrance to a home fans' area of seating, which read (in English) "Japanese Only". While it's hardly unusual for Twitter to act as a forum for shock and outrage, Japanese and foreign fans alike were united in their condemnation of what was interpreted as a racist statement.

At the following day's J2 games supporters of FC Gifu and Consadole Sapporo responded by displaying anti-racism banners, stressing that all were welcome at their clubs' games. Fans of Yokohama F Marinos followed suit at their midweek Asian Champions League tie against Guangzhou Evergrande.

While Twitter initially drove the story, the mainstream media at the start of the week were tentative in their coverage, using wording to the effect that the banner "could be interpreted" as racist. To that extent, it's surprising how quickly both the J-League and Urawa Reds themselves have responded to the incident.

The League declared that Reds will have to play today's home league match against Shimizu S-Pulse behind closed doors. For their part Urawa announced that the supporters' group to which the fan who brought the banner belonged have been ordered to disband. All of them have been banned from attending Reds games for life. For the foreseeable future no homemade banners will be allowed at any Reds games, including those of Urawa Reds Ladies. Moreover a group of senior club employees have had their salaries reduced for the next three months. Mike Innes

On the subject...

Comment on 23-03-2014 20:05:00 by geobra #895004
We all want to get racism out of society and football, but if I have read the article correctly, those responsible for the banner have been identified. For this reason I don't see why it was necessary to play today's match behind closed doors. It seems an extremely draconian punishment.

I have had several experiences of not being able to see matches that I had paid for because of the actions of others over which I had no control, and I have never felt that the means justified the ends, especially as the ends have not been achieved.

When an offence is committed we look for the guilty and if we find them we punish them. We don't punish the innocent. But it seems more and more that in football this fundamental principle does not apply.

If, despite all the stadium closures there have been all over the world, these problems still exist, the obvious conclusion is that preventing innocent people from watching matches is not the solution.
Comment on 24-03-2014 08:45:40 by Coral #895148
Tend to agree Geobra but very happy with this. Got to the heart of the matter straight off and although it is unfair to an extent to have a closed doors match it doesn't half ram home the point. Problem is that in Japan that will have sent shock waves. In Italy a closed doors game feels like it is just going through the motions.
Comment on 24-03-2014 10:45:56 by donedmundo #895196
When in Japan a few years ago a school announced with great fanfare that they had just appointed a Chinese parent governor. This they claimed was evidence that Japan was not a racist society. It later transpired that the Chinese man in question had actually been born in Japan and lived all his life there. He spoke Japanese not Chinese and was married to a Japanese woman. There were also bars that said, quite clearly, 'Japanese only'. Japan still has a long way to go.
Comment on 24-03-2014 12:44:46 by biziclop #895257
I see what you're saying Coral, but isn't this the case of the boy who cried wolf? Could it be that the reason no-one can be bothered in Italy any more is that there've been so many sanctions recently for things that could've been dealt with on a smaller scale?
Comment on 24-03-2014 15:38:31 by Coral #895312
That is a fair point, especially with the regional issues. I am no expert on Italy (perhaps an uncessary caveat as it is probably evident) but it just seems that there are a number of behind doors games and little changes. Still not helped by the hysteria though as shown by the Ballotelli incident a month or two back
Comment on 24-03-2014 16:09:17 by geobra #895331
'There are a number of behind doors games and nothing changes'.

That is exactly my point - playing games behind closed doors changes nothing and alienates the peaceful majority of fans. Some of the fans of Italian clubs who have had (partial) stadium closures this season are still racially abusing Balotelli, the citizens of Naples and, now, Clarence Seedorf.

It is time the authorities realised that another approach is needed, short of banning football altogether, which is obviously impossible.

Would it be unduly cynical to suggest that behind this story is a fear that the 'image' of the J League might be damaged rather than a real desire to stamp out racism? If there really are still 'Japanese only' bars, it's clearly a big problem there, and one football match without fans isn't going to do much to solve it.
Comment on 24-03-2014 16:59:31 by Coral #895361
No but at least they have banned that element from the ground and disbanded their group. The closed doors game is just to strike home to the fans that it won't be tolerated. It is the first two bits the Itallian clubs need to target. The fans wield a lot of power with a club's players often answerable to them. Something needs to be done to crack down on that
Comment on 24-03-2014 19:12:15 by geobra #895407
If only it were so simple. But of course it isn't or a solution would have been found by now. A game behind closed doors may say to Japanese fans that it (racism) won't be tolerated. To some Italian (and I suspect not just them) fans it's like a red rag to a bull.

In any case we need to see if the lesson will be taken on board in Japan first. It's early days to draw any conclusions.

More generally, surely if a 'solution' isn't working, it's nothing more than blind, cussed obatinacy to persist with it.

The policy should be to catch, to name and to shame the culprits. It may be harder than shutting down a stadium, but in the long run it will be more effective. Hard problems don't have easy solutions, but with patience they can be solved.
Comment on 24-03-2014 19:14:27 by geobra #895408
Comment on 25-03-2014 07:07:33 by geobra #895489
Football cannot divorce itself from the real world, and with the rise in Europe of the extreme right, much of it espousing ultra-nationalistic, quasi-racist or neo-fascist ideas, it is difficult to see racism on the terraces eradicated in the foreseeable future. The electoral successes of parties like Golden Dawn in Greece, FN in France, the Northern League in Italy, UKIP in the UK and others mean that more and more people, some of whom no doubt also go to football matches, vote for or at least support such views and feel that they are made legitimate by the presence of their political representatives in parliament or on local councils.

In other words, in a climate that is currently becoming more and more poisonous in Europe, we are likely to see more rather than less racism in football stadiums, and there's little football can do about it until politics changes direction.
Comment on 25-03-2014 09:32:45 by geobra #895527
Football, more than any other sport because of its universal appeal, offers a perfect platform for the airing of obnoxious racist views with the near certainty that they will receive the oxygen of publicity. But the root causes are outside the game and so outside its control. It must do what it can, of course, but it cannot be blamed if it is not entirely successful. And, as I will never stop saying, doing what it can must not include penalising the innocent.
Comment on 25-03-2014 15:40:02 by Coral #895741
The root cause is outside the clubs' control. What happens inside is entirely within their control. It might be unduly harsh to penalise those who innocently go to matches, but if it worked by making those innocents start to question why the nasty element are not properly obstructed from entry then perhaps it does serve a purpose. No player should face racial abuse at a football ground. Whether that happens outside the ground or not is irrelevant. The stadia is an area that can and should be controlled. Terrible example perhpas but in the UK I can drink in a number of places without restriction. I can't in a ground.
Comment on 25-03-2014 17:58:19 by pachyderm #895813
o my!

i can't believe that there are still overt racist incidents in sports!
Comment on 25-03-2014 18:07:46 by geobra #895815
Do you really think that we're not already asking that question? We do it all the time. And also how an 8-year-old kid can have the top of his bottle of water confiscated while the ultrà gets in with his firecracker. And do you really think that closing the stadium will help us to find answers to those questions? And if we did, what could we do?

Maybe the clubs could and should do more, but how do you identify a potential racist and stop him from entering? The problem has huge political and social connotations and has grown exponentially as Italy has become more and more multi-ethnic.

As for the link between clubs and their players and the ultràs, it mirrors that between politics and organised crime. It cannot be justified, of course, but it is further evidence that football cannot be separated from ordinary life. And it is often those same politicians who shamelessly condemn the ultrà culture.
Comment on 25-03-2014 18:21:09 by geobra #895819
The above comments are addressed to Coral. And perhaps I could add that in terms of racial integration Italy is perhaps where England was when bananas were thrown at John Barnes, or when he was abused on a plane before (or after) a game with Brazil in which he had scored a memorable goal and contributed to a famous victory.

25 years ago Italy was a very different country and there was little or no overt racism at football. Now there is, and stamping it out is made more difficult by the racist attitudes struck by many prominent politicians.
Comment on 26-03-2014 07:13:40 by geobra #896033
However (and then I'll stop!) the vast majority of matches in Italy are not scarred by racism. Those that are make the headlines, those that aren't don't. Which is not to say that the problem doesn't exist because it obviously does. But just as it would be foolish to underestimate it, so we should avoid the danger of exaggerating it.
Comment on 26-03-2014 09:21:04 by Coral #896063
I would say rather than rage at the authorities for closed doors matches, your rage should be directed to the cause of the closed door matches.
Comment on 26-03-2014 15:49:36 by geobra #896225
I hate racists. I think the way the problem is being tackled in Italy is misguided and may even be exacerbating it. (And I suspect that the authorities realise it and that things will change next season).

That, in a nutshell is my, position. As for the 'direct action' suggestion, I'm afraid I'm too old and tired for that!

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