The Fight Against Racism Rises in Japan
Let’s not parse words: when headlines related to racism in football make the rounds, it’s understandable to assume the story must be related to one of the countries that’s been associated with racism in the past. Russia, Italy, Poland, maybe even the Ukraine… but Japan? Really?
Earlier this month, fans of prominent J-League club, Urawa Red Diamonds, unfurled a banner that read Japanese Only near the entrance to a dedicated fan section. Targeting foreigners, the banner is the latest in a string of incidents related to the club, coming on the back of discriminatory chants towards South Korean and Brazilian players, and most recently towards their own Tadanari Lee, a South Korean-born forward who plays for the Japanese National Team. Still worse is the fact that team management were made aware of the banner during the match, but neglected to force its removal, concluding that there was no racist intent in the banner’s message.
Rather than wait the storm brought about by global media coverage, the J-League responded with a substantial punishment: a one-game supporter ban for the Red Diamonds, effectively forcing them to play in front of an empty stadium during a recent fixture.
In a nation where right-wing nationalism is being pushed by hard-line Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, a man who has done everything but officially deny the Nanjing Massacre, this is certainly a strong message. That said, while some might suggest that recent headlines coming out of Japan involving anti-South Korean graffiti and government-sanctioned revisions of Japan’s history suggest a widespread trend, the reality is that those on the fringe are often the loudest.
Here’s to the J-League for making their voice heard, and taking a heavy stance against racism. [Posted by Maxi]