Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play In An Empty Stadium

Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium

Earlier this month, a banner reading "Japanese Only" hung inside Saitama Stadium 2002. The incident led to the Urawa Red Diamonds soccer team being punished: This weekend, the team was forced to play in an empty stadium. And yes, the team is being punished for the actions of insensitive fans.

AFP reports that the Urawa president Keizo Fuchita said fans hung the banner so foreigners would not sit in the section behind the goal — which is considered "sacred ground" by diehard fans.

Here is the banner that sparked all of this (courtesy of Reddit):

Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium

"I don't think the fans who put that banner out realised how seriously it would be taken," an Urawa fan told AFP. "If that happened in Europe, with a racist banner, it'd be normal for you to be punished."

Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium
Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium

On 2ch, Japan's largest online forum, photos of this weekend's match between Urawa and Shimizu S-Pulse showed a stadium devoid of fans. It's quite a different sight from the team's typical matches, which draw big crowds.

Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium
Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium

Many 2ch commenters noted how odd the images of two professional J-League teams playing in an empty stadium looked. "Seems lonely..." wrote one 2ch commenter. "I can't even fathom the players' mental state," wrote another. Others thought the images looked strangely funny.

For future games, AP reports that the team is also banning fans from displaying any banners or signs at the stadium.

Racism Forces Soccer Team To Play in an Empty Stadium

"Like many foreigners here I love Japan and the Japanese people," Shimizu's Iranian-American coach Afshin Ghotbi told AP. "Japanese people are kind and polite. If there are a few ignorant people in this country, let's teach them."

This Sunday's game ended in a 1-1 tie.

Urawa Reds play at empty stadium as punishment for discriminatory banner [Asahi Shimbun]

「JAPANESE ONLY」で無観客試合になった浦和レッズを御覧ください [2ch]


    Is this only on here because it happened in Japan and was on 2ch? Get a decent source of news other than a forum that you only follow because you like anime. As stated, this happens in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, but I don't see those matches being reported on

      Chill out, Kotaku has been doing stories on Japanese life, culture and pop-culture forever, its not just about games

      Here's a free tip for you: If you don't like the story, don't read it

        I clicked on it because I like football and thought the story would somehow be interesting but quickly found out that it was only posted because it happened in Japan.

        I understand posting about the subculture. I don't do it myself but I get that people love all things Japanese, but does that make all things Japanese newsworthy just to get someone's article stats up for the week?

          Considering the site tried to make it's name sound Japanese. Having things posted about Japanese culture isn't too far of a stretch. But when it starts posting random things about China and Korea than I would start questioning.

          you can't spell kotaku without otaku, which is a term to describe interest in Japanese culture.

            Actually, no.
            Otaku is not a term to describe fascination with Japanese culture.
            It is quite like the English word 'Geek' and used to describe people with a consuming devotion to or fascination with subjects that aren't the social norm.

          thought the story would somehow be interesting

          But it is interesting. I would have never heard about this otherwise. Being the big football fan that you are, you had already read about this story and already knew the details of the incident, hence your disdain at having it a second time.

          So... it would have been interesting if this occurred OUTSIDE of Japan?

            Arguably more so, because say this happened in Europe, we'd be seeing riots over not being allowed to watch a match.

      But Bashcraft needs to make a living D:

      Agreed... really really tenuous link to the normal content of the site as usual.
      Unfortunately Mr Ashcraft seems reluctant to write about anything other than Japanese and Korean culture - which he appears to love deeply.
      I have a few Western friends who are similarly obsessed with Japanese culture. They speak the language, eat the food, ignore the latent ingrained racism and horrifically brutal military past (Manchukuo, Rape of Nanking and 'comfort girls' I'm looking at you!)
      Sadly like oil and water they will never be allowed to mix :,(
      Don't get me wrong though, I love tentacle porn anime as much as the next dude!

    This is punishment for the fans much more than it is for the teams involved. This is a match they otherwise would have scrambled to attend but now can't because some of them acted inappropriately.

    What I want to know is why stadium staff didn't take the banner down.

      Obviously you've never heard of something called a soccer riot.

        Nobody's going to riot over taking down a banner hung by one or two people over an entrance gate that's not in view of the seating or the game. Try to take a banner from some English yobs who are waving it around inside the stadium itself maybe, but not where the banner is in the photo above.

      So the fans should be punished
      Wildly inappropriate behavior like this can only really be corrected by peer pressure, not the authorities

        Yes, they should. I was responding to Ashcraft's statement "the team is being punished for the actions of insensitive fans".

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