JAKARTA – The Japan men’s basketball team was back in action at the Asian Games on Wednesday, earning an 88-82 victory over Hong Kong, in its first game since the Japanese Olympic Committee announced it had kicked out four players for rule violations.
Players among the remaining eight expressed gratitude for being able to continue after their teammates were expelled from the national team for buying sex in Jakarta.
“I wanted to express my appreciation on the court for allowing the team to keep playing,” said Naoto Tsuji, who scored eight points in the victory.
Tenketsu Harimoto, who poured in 17 points for Japan, said, “I wanted to do my best to fill in the gaps made by the players who are gone now.”
The Gelora Bung Karno Basket Hall was nearly at full capacity on the country’s national holiday, with fans cheering throughout the tight affair.
“I hope the players perform well so the younger generation can think they’re cool,” said Chiaya Suzuki, a fan visiting from Shizuoka Prefecture.
A Japanese fan in her 20s who lives in Jakarta said the scandal was reported on local TV news. “Everyone was talking about it at work. I hope the team can overcome this adversity,” she said.
The scandal has rocked the Japanese sport world as the country gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The JOC has cautioned the national team, warning it to prevent similar misconduct in the future.