Japan captain Yoshida accuses Saudi fans of ‘discriminatory gestures’

Japan’s defender Maya Yoshida (right) vies for the ball with Saudi midfielder Sami al-Najei during the 2022 Qatar World Cup Asian Qualifier at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah on October 7, 2021 ( Photo by – / AFP).

Maya Yoshida confronted Saudi fans and later accused them of making “discriminatory gestures” after the defeat left Japan in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

The Japan captain had angry words with a section of local fans after the qualifying loss in Jeddah on Thursday, after he was seen taunting him during a post-match interview.

Mobile phone footage showed the Sampdoria defender marching towards the fence that separated fans from the pitch, tapping and protesting with them.

He then left after being detained by Japanese officials, but later returned to explain his reaction to reporters.

“There were discriminatory gestures,” the 33-year-old man was quoted by the Japanese media, without elaborating on what the gestures were.

“It is difficult to accept. It also happened in the last qualifying rounds. It’s very disappointing. “

The result left Japan with just three points from three games in Group B, having started the campaign with a surprising home loss to Oman and a narrow away win over China.

The four-time Asian champions, who have appeared in the last six World Cups, now face a must-win home clash with Australia on Tuesday.

Fans took to social media to call for the dismissal of manager Hajime Moriyasu, and newspaper columnists were also scathing in their verdict, with Japan’s hopes of reaching the Qatar 2022 World Cup in jeopardy.

“Before the game, Moriyasu said it was an away game and also mentioned the weather and jet lag,” wrote commentator Sergio Echigo in Nikkan Sports newspaper.

“I can only think that he already had his excuses before he lost.”

Echigo noted that Japan had only scored one goal in three games, and fans on social media weren’t impressed either.

One demanded “give me my sleep back” after getting up at 2:00 am to watch the game.

Another wrote: “I used to look forward to seeing the games in Japan, but if it’s going to be like this every time, I’m losing the desire to see them. It’s boring.”

Nikkan Sports reported that the nationality of midfielder Gaku Shibasaki, whose wandering back pass let Saudi Arabia in for the winning goal, was briefly changed from Japanese to Saudi on his Wikipedia page.

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