Japanese coach condemns ‘racist message’ to mixed-race GK

Japan national team head coach Hajime Moriyasu has defended Zion Suzuki (22, Sint-Truidien) after he was subjected to “racism”.

Japan will face Indonesia on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET at the Altumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, in the third match of Group D of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Qatar Asian Cup.

Japan currently sits in second place in the group with three points (D1, L1, +1). Indonesia also has three points (D1, L1, G1), but is third in the group due to goal difference. The top spot in the group is held by Iraq (6 points), which caught Indonesia and Japan, and the bottom spot is held by Vietnam (0 points).

The outcome of this match will decide the second and third spots in the group. Japan will advance to the Round of 16 as Group D’s runner-up if they don’t lose to Indonesia. And if South Korea tops Group E, they will play the ‘fateful Korea-Japan match’ in the Round of 16.

Moriyasu attended the official press conference at the Doha Main Media Center on Wednesday, a day ahead of the match. He said, “We lost our last game in Iraq. But we are preparing well for tomorrow’s match. Everyone is united. I hope the players will show their strengths tomorrow and play well as a team.”

Japan has many good memories in Qatar. They won the 2011 Asian Cup and the 2016 U-23 Asian Cup. They also defeated Germany and Spain in back-to-back matches at the 2022 World Cup.

Moriyasu said, “Qatar has a strong connection with Japan. I like the training days, I like the stadium, I like the people who are helping us. Everything about this tournament is good. There is nothing negative. I’m happy to be here,” Moriyasu said. “Japanese soccer has a good history here, and I want to continue that history. Right now, I’m only focused on tomorrow’s game.”

Recently, questions have been raised in Japan about head coach Hajime Moriyasu’s leadership. That he doesn’t control his players enough and gives them too much freedom. One reporter called it a “bottom-up” approach.

Moriyasu responded, “There are different types of managers, but I think I’m a bottom-up type, not a ‘top-down’ type. I listen to different opinions about the team style and try to match them with the players’ ideas. We make decisions as a team based on the results of our discussions.” “It’s not true that I give the players a lot of freedom. We have rules as a team. I don’t think the players feel that way. They hear different things, but when I make a decision, I make it.”

He also acknowledged the possibility of changes to the starting lineup. “We’re training with a few different positions,” Moriyasu said. We’ll talk to the medical staff and then we’ll decide on the starting lineup. We have 26 good players and all of them can play tomorrow. But we have seven games to play in this tournament, so we also have to take into account their physical condition.”

The Japanese national team has been plagued by racism. Goalkeeper Suzuki, who is of mixed race, has been plagued by discriminatory comments after making mistakes in the first and second games. He told reporters the day before that he felt responsible and asked people to stop sending racist messages on social media.

Moriyasu said: “This should not happen under any circumstances. The world is united and connected through soccer. Suzuki is our precious player. Racism should never happen again. It is shameful. I will protest firmly. We want to help him in every way possible and let him focus on soccer.”


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