Moriwaki incident provokes pause for thought

The recent incident involving Urawa Reds’ Ryota Moriwaki and Kashima Antlers’ Leo Silva and Mitsuo Ogasawara was all rather unpleasant, but hopefully having the debate played out so publicly can help increase understanding of the impact words and actions can have on others…  (日本語版はこちらです)

Football Channel, 11th May, 2017

It has been a busy few weeks for the J.League’s disciplinary panel, with all manner of on and off the pitch incidents making negative headlines for the division.

Some of these problems – Tokushima Vortis’ Kazuaki Mawatari being sent off for an altercation with a ball-boy in his side’s game away to JEF United on 29 April, for instance, or a handful of Urawa Reds fans reacting to their 1-0 loss away to Omiya Ardija in the Saitama derby the following day by picking a fight with a dividing fence – can merely be put down to poor decision making and stupidity, respectively.

Others, such as the scandal swirling around Urawa defender Ryota Moriwaki, however, require closer, more considered inspection, as they demonstrate a lack of awareness of the affect of words and actions on others.

Moriwaki was given a two-match suspension on Tuesday after being accused by Kashima Antlers captain Mitsuo Ogasawara of abusing Antlers’ Brazilian midfielder Leo Silva during the sides’ game in Saitama on 4 May.

Ogasawara was clearly incensed by something during an altercation in the 78th minute of the match, having to be restrained by Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, and straight after the game the 38-year-old stopped of his own accord to address the media, alleging that Moriwaki had said ‘you stink’ to Leo Silva during the spat.

“After the game I spoke to Leo Silva and he said, ‘Moriwaki always says those things’,” Ogasawara said.

“In previous games he has said similar things to Caio and Davi, and seeing as it is something that has been repeated I feel this is enough. It counts as verbal abuse, which could be perceived as discriminatory, and so I would like the media to look into it.

“It is not restricted to just this occasion, and while I don’t know how it can be verified it can’t be tolerated. We have discussions about fair play and I don’t think we should accept verbal abuse.”

Such accusations cannot – and should not – be made lightly, and the story quickly gained traction, in part because of a string of recent events with a similarly unsavoury flavor.

Gamba Osaka were sanctioned for their fans waving a flag bearing an SS-like design during the 16 April derby against Cerezo Osaka, while nine days later a Kawasaki Frontale supporter displayed a naval ensign at the club’s ACL match away to Suwon Bluewings, leading to a 1.7 million fine from the AFC and the possibility of having to play a home game behind closed doors if the offence is repeated.

It wouldn’t appear that either of these incidents were carried out with any kind of political or discriminatory intent, but were instead down to a lack of understanding as to how the images on display could be perceived. This is not solely a problem within football, instead reflecting wider issues in society, but football can take a lead in trying to educate on such matters.

Leo Silva and Ryota Moriwaki (Football Channel / Getty Images)

“Reflecting on it, it sounds like a childish scuffle, but everything I can say is the truth,” Moriwaki said after the game in Saitama, before refuting the claims that he had said anything discriminatory to Leo Silva. Indeed, in his version of events he had not been directing his words at the Brazilian at all, but instead to Ogasawara, whose spit Moriwaki claimed had landed on his face during the altercation.

“I would be really grateful if there had been a tape recorder at the scene to have picked up everything,” he added. “People who really know me understand that I can get wound up and shout childish things like ‘shit!’, but not even once have I gone beyond that and said anything to really insult anybody – whether they be Japanese, Brazilian, or from any country.”

Upon receiving his ban and apologizing for any offence caused Moriwaki reiterated this stance, and, on balance, he deserves to be taken at his word.

“In life many things happen,” Leo Silva said when discussing the incident after the match.

“In the game, in the heat of the moment, all sorts crops up. For me, I accept those things in games – that’s my personality. I’ve played in Japan for quite a long time so I know Japanese people don’t really do that [say insulting things]. With that in mind I can act calmly.”

Moriwaki is the only one who truly knows what intent, if any, lay behind his words, and the most likely explanation is that he acted rashly, aggressively, and, as he himself admitted, childishly to the situation.

This is also a problem though, and the possibility that our behavior may be perceived as offensive to somebody else is something everyone needs to be aware of and to respect.

Such issues cannot be allowed to just be swept under the carpet, and encouraging discussion about them and attempting to prevent them from growing into more serious issues is vital.

“If you leave it now maybe in the future this might end up being a big problem,” Leo Silva continued. “Violence doesn’t only take physical forms but there is verbal violence in society as well, and we need to eradicate those things. Perhaps this kind of thing will happen in football from now on too, but I know it shouldn’t.

“I’m a father as well and wouldn’t want to do this kind of thing to others. If it was me who’d done it I’d be embarrassed. I don’t know if he [Moriwaki] has children, but for children we are heroes and role models to learn from. We have an important role to play in life and I’d like him to keep that in mind.”

Moriwaki has certainly been forced to consider his behaviour, and both he and Leo Silva merit praise for dealing with the fallout in a mature manner. What is important now is that everyone learns from the recent unedifying episodes, and that players and fans pay more consideration to the way in which their behaviour can impact upon others.


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