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Nihon University’s apology refused in football incident as scandal grows

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

This could be the end of the traditional rivalry “Showdown of Red and Blue.” Not only that, the rich tradition of Nihon University football team, a 21-time national champion, has been severely damaged.

The Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters are not satisfied with the reply from the Nihon University Phoenix regarding the multiple penalties made by a Phoenix defender in their exhibition game on May 6 in Tokyo. A Kwansei Gakuin quarterback was injured on a late hit by the defender, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty. The defender then committed two more personal fouls over the next few plays before he was ejected from the game.

“We do not regard this reply from Nihon University as a sincere apology or explanation, which we required,” Fighters director Hiromu Ono said on Thursday during a news conference at the Kwansei Gakuin training facility in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. “We will extend the deadline of the apology and further explanation on what happened in the game and how it occurred to May 24. Then we will decide how to deal with this.”

According to Ono, a Phoenix coach visited the Fighters office on Tuesday and delivered the reply. In the letter, the Phoenix insisted that the coaches instruct the player within the rules, and that they have never encouraged him to hurt opposing players.

The letter also denied several reports that Phoenix head coach Masato Uchida urged the defender to commit fouls to injure the quarterback in the game, saying, “we demanded aggressive play from them and told them to play very hard, but they might have misunderstood the message.”

There is also a report that Uchida ordered the defender, who was demoted to a backup role this season, to target the quarterback on the first play of the game if the player wanted to get back his starting position.

Uchida was quoted as saying by Nikkan Sports “I’ve put my players under a lot of pressure. We can’t be passive. We can’t beat (the Fighters) without aggressive plays. I’m responsible for those plays.”

Uchida has not appeared in public since the game. This is one of the major reasons the incident has continued to resonate in the daily news cycle and been introduced on news programs on every key channel over the past several days.

“Uchida was at the game. He saw the play. If he insists the players received his message wrongly, why did he not pull the player out and tell him not to do a dangerous play at the sideline?” Fighters head coach Akira Toriuchi said. “The play is not acceptable. If it is, it is not sports anymore. We always tell our players not to make dirty plays or try to hurt the opponent.

“It’s been more than a week since the game, but Uchida has not come out and apologized,” Toriuchi continued, mentioning Uchida is not only the team’s head coach but also the school’s managing director. “He must make an official apology and he is responsible to explain himself as a person of his status.”