On March 8, supporters of the J-League’s Urawa Reds soccer team hung a “Japanese only” banner in an entrance of Saitama Stadium 2002 during a home game.
Officials of the club later said the discriminatory banner was to prevent foreigners from entering that section and disrupting group cheers.
As a means of punishment, the team was forced to play its March 23 game inside an empty stadium — a 1-1 draw with the Shimizu S-Pulse.
According to Flash (Apr. 8), the spectator-less match cost the club 300 million yen in revenue. Yet the matter is hardly resolved since the back story as to the origin of the banner remains unclear.
“It was not racial discrimination,” says the manager of a restaurant frequented by Reds fans. “Last year, a lot of foreigners started filling up the stands behind the north goal. They’d come to take photos of the other fans and drink alcohol. They were out of control. So that’s the reason.”
According to the tabloid, the banner was raised by three members of a support group calling itself UB Snake, which was established in 1998.
“They are a hard-nosed bunch, known for their passionate cheering,” says a Reds fan. “The leader is a good-looking guy under the age of 40 who works for the Saitama City Office.”
The fan goes on to say that some young members of the group are known for holding anti-Korean sentiments. “In this case, it was certainly a discriminatory banner,” the fan says.
During interviews with police, the three members claimed that their intention was not rooted in politics or discrimination. (The magazine placed a call to the Saitama City Office in an effort to obtain a comment from UB Snake’s leader but was told he was out of the office that day.)
A soccer journalist says the banner was based in reference to player Tadanari Lee, a fourth-generation Korean-Japanese who is in his first year with the club. “The Urawa supporters booed and jeered him in the opening game,” says the journalist.
The writer goes on to say that the official monthly magazine of the Urawa Reds included a comment from a fan that said real Urawa fans don’t like Koreans.
“So the club committed the same ‘offense,'” says the journalist.
Flash says it is a disgraceful incident, with the team and supporters alike having dropped the ball. (A.T.)
Source: “Sabetsu odanmaku rezzu sapo riidaa ha shiyakusho kinmu no 40dai,” Flash (Apr. 8)