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Have once-welcoming Urawa Reds matches changed that much?

Some responses to Debito Arudou’s March 13 Just Be Cause column, “J. League and media must show red card to racism“:

I moved to Saitama city from Canada in 2002 and stayed for three years, teaching English in the city’s elementary and junior-high schools. It was my first time living abroad and, like many of the other foreign English teachers I was with, I found that it could be a lonely and isolating experience.

One of the places that we felt most welcome and most a part of our city’s cultural life was at Urawa Reds football matches. Whether it was at Komaba Stadium or the massive Saitama Stadium, we would instinctively make our way to the section with the loudest fans, where we were invariably welcomed with smiles and open arms as fellow Reds supporters. Some of my fondest memories of Japan include die-hard Reds fans patiently teaching my gaikokujin [foreign] pals and I the songs and cheers that rang out from the section of Komaba known as “Red Hell” and reverberated across the grounds and beyond.

Enthralled with the atmosphere and camaraderie, we took it upon ourselves to become committed Reds supporters. We’d frequently show up to matches in face paint; we’d lead cheers in sections of the stadiums where our unexpected appearance was all that was needed to get the fans out of their seats; we’d travel to away matches; and we made the local Reds bar our designated watering hole. When some of us scaled Fuji-san, we brought a Reds flag to the top with us, and a picture of our glorious ascent with the flag in hand remained on the bar’s wall for years.

The Urawa Reds transcended sports for me. They were something to talk with my neighbours about and bond with my students over. Supporting the Reds was one of the most effective ways I was able to integrate into my community.

Although it’s been nearly a decade since I last attended a Reds match, the news that some supporters put up a “Japanese only” banner in Saitama Stadium and derided non-Japanese with racist epithets shocked and saddened me. Maybe things have changed in Saitama, but I cannot imagine racists being welcomed or tolerated at the matches I went to; nor should they be now.

Ignoring the obvious irony of making “Japanese only” declarations at a sporting event originating from England, any real Urawa Reds fan has to acknowledge the contributions of dozens of foreigners to the team over the last 20-odd years — as players, coaches, managers and fans. The Reds squad that played in the first Nabisco Cup in 1992 included two Argentinians and a Japanese-Peruvian player. The next two years saw the arrival of German players and coaches, including the legendary Guido Buchwald. When Urawa finally won the Nabisco Cup in 2003, it was with a squad fronted by the J. League’s top scorer — a Brazilian named Emerson — and managed by a Dutchman named Hans Ooft.

While it’s important for the J. League and the teams themselves to respond appropriately to racism, it is ultimately the fans themselves who are responsible for the culture in the stands. So it is the fans who will have to decide if they will tolerate open bigotry at matches and bring shame onto the Urawa Reds, or if they will let it be known in no uncertain terms that to be racist is to be anti-Urawa Reds.

As with Manchester United or Glasgow’s Celtic when faced with unacceptable racism in the stands, I trust that the excellent people who head to Komaba or Saitama stadiums every game will do the right thing and show racism the red card.

TODD FERGUSON

The problem with Japan is that they have stagnated in everything so progress is in short supply. Their leagues (football, baseball) will be richer talent-wise if limited foreigners are injected into the equation. This will benefit the local players as they will then have to up their skills.

A few hāfus [mixed-race Japanese] in the gene pool won’t do any harm either. I am yet to meet a Japanese girl who has not complained about short legs or this and that!

The myopic approach to everything is why Sony is in a funk and Samsung is mounting a challenge on Apple.

What is it about the snake that destroyed itself by eating its tail?

JAKE HARODS

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp