January 24 – Japanese manager Hajime Moriyasu has come out in defense of his goalkeeper Zion Suzuki who claimed he suffered racial abuse on social media following his team’s 2-1 shock defeat against Iraq.
Born to a Ghanaian American father and a Japanese mother in the United States, Suzuki (pictured) was at fault for the opening goal after making mistakes against Vietnam in Japan’s curtain raiser as well. The number one said he would accept criticism of his performances but “would like people to stop making racist comments”, saying: “I want to come back at them by producing good results.”
At a news conference, Moriyasu backed his goalkeeper, giving him full support. The Japan manager said: “I am very ashamed, and I feel appalled that he was racially discriminated against, this shouldn’t happen again, I would like to complain about this, I will fully support him, so for him to play with full concentration and fully focused.”
“This can’t happen in any case, in this diverse world this can’t happen. We live in a world where these things may happen but through football, we must bond together, we share our diversity, this is the message I would like to share with everyone who is involved in football.”
The incident comes after AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan walked off the field during last weekend’s Serie A match at Udinese after being subjected to what he later said were monkey noises and FIFA president Gianni Infantino called for the implementation of an automatic forfeit of games for teams whose fans commit racist abuse.
Moriyasu and Japan go into their final group game under some pressure after the defeat to Iraq and a less-than-convincing victory over Vietnam.
Moriyasu said they are in Qatar to play seven matches and highlighted that his management style is not top-down.
“I listen to my players’ opinion and staff’s opinion as much as possible and that is how I manage the team. I try to synchronise with the players – I know that I will be the decision-maker at the end, but that is not a difficult task for me. I have listened to these opinions, I make my decisions based on these opinions that were discussed and raised beforehand,” he said.
Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu added: “After the Vietnam match I also had the opportunity to raise my opinion. It is not a negative thing, it is a positive thing – there is a good bond in the team, I like that we play as one unit and play for the coach as well. During the match, our captain Endo or even myself have to be leaders, we have to take on a leadership role and we can only fix these problems on the pitch.”
In Group D’s other match, Iraq will seek a third consecutive win in the tournament against Vietnam, bottom of the group following two defeats, to clinch the top spot and maintain a perfect record.
Four years ago, the Iraqis were eliminated by eventual champions Qatar in the round of 16. Jesus Cassas, Iraq’s manager said: “It’s an important match. I don’t mind that the other day we got qualified but all matches are important because we can improve each time, to show our best performance but in football, all teams want to win. I think Vietnam will want to win, too, because, in a sport, all people want to win.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com