KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF: FIFA will take no disciplinary action over the refusal of Japan’s womens team to try to beat South Africa on Tuesday – because they wanted to stay in Cardiff for their quarter-final.
But the words of Norio Sasaki and obedience of his team presented a awkward challenge for the world federation on the very day when the responsibility of teams to compete honestly came under focus: Japan’s women are not only Olympic competitors but, as holders of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, possessed of a role model responsibility.
While the Japanese behaviour did not compare with the banned badminton players they clearly – and admittedly – contravened the spirit of sport in general and the Olympic Charter in particular by not playing to win.
Coach Norio Sasaki was unashamed after the game as he had made no secret of his tactic. He was reported by Press Association as saying: “Before the match I did not tell the players to draw the game, but if we had a situation during the game . . . we might have some kind of an instruction to draw the game and it happened like that.
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Our game is the school of life in the spirit of fair play, our game is based on discipline and respect — FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Tuesday
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“It was a different way of playing compared to our usual game but I think the players were at the same stage and understood my instructions well. Now it is my turn to make preparations for the team to win the next match in order to get through to the semi-finals.”
When challenged over his statement, the coach added: “I was thinking of the condition of the players, it takes a very long time to move to Glasgow from here.
“We are here to challenge for the gold medal and we are still a challenger and for us it is important to have good preparation for the next match.
“I feel sorry I couldn’t show a more spectacular game but it is my responsibility why the game was like that today, because of that we would like to show our best performance in the quarter-final that will be played here [in Cardiff].”
For FIFA the matter is dead and buried.
A spokesman said: “The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has this afternoon reviewed comments made by Japan’s Women’s Head Coach Norio Sasaki at the post-match press conference, following the conclusion of their Group F match against South Africa in Cardiff yesterday afternoon.
“Following this analysis, there are no sufficient elements to start disciplinary proceedings.”
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