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Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011

Belgian club apologizes for Fukushima taunts


BRUSSELS — Belgian League club Beerschot formally apologized to Eiji Kawashima on Tuesday after some of its fans taunted the Japan international goalkeeper with jeers of "Fukushima, Fukushima" during a league game against Lierse last month.

News photo
Let's be friends: Beerschot chairman Patrick Vanoppen (left) shakes hands with Eiji Kawashima in Hove, Belgium, on Tuesday. AP

The referee interrupted the match until the taunts about Japan's nuclear power plant disaster in March stopped. When the goalie went to confront the fans when the taunting started he was pelted with coins and beer. The club was fined some ?25,000 ($34,200) for the incident.

"Wrong and dreadful things" happened, Beerschot chairman Patrick Vanoppen said. "I deeply regret the things that happened over there."

Kawashima said the apology would mean a lot for the Japanese people.

"The people who are hurt (are) the people from Japan," he told reporters. "After this apology, maybe many people can forgive this thing."

Vanoppen said he would present his apologies to the Japanese embassy on Wednesday.

The March 11 magnitude-9.0 earthquake produced the sort of devastation Japan hadn't seen since World War II. The tsunami that followed engulfed the northeast and wiped out entire towns. The waves inundated the Fukushima plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Some 20,000 people are dead or missing.

Beyond the apologies though, Vanoppen said he would appeal the fine. He said Beerschot cannot be held legally responsible for the actions for some of its fans.

"The proposed fine counters the federation rules, civil law, the European Declaration of Human Rights, the Belgian constitution and common legal principles," the club said in a statement.

It also said Lierse fans insulted at least one of its players during the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The Belgian federation has started a campaign against insulting, racist and degrading taunts. The federation's prosecution office fined champion Racing Genk ?600 ($820) for insulting chants from its Dutch-speaking fans targeted at the francophone club Standard Liege over the weekend. Genk won 3-0.

Japan beats Malaysia


Tosu, Saga Pref. — Japan's Under-22s kicked of their Asian final-round qualifying campaign for next year's London Olympics on a winning note on Wednesday night with a routine 2-0 defeat of Malaysia.

Keigo Higashi set Japan on their way with a well-taken opener on 10 minutes at Tosu Stadium but dictating a lopsided match, the young Blue Samurai had to wait until a little under quarter of an hour left to find the target again and seal victory through substitute Ryohei Yamazaki.

Japan dominated from the outset and Higashi opened the scoring when he picked up a return from Hiroshi Kiyotake and slotted home to round off a neatly worked move.

Takashi Sekizuka's men could have easily been four goals to the good inside the first half, but Malaysia goalkeeper and captain Khairul Fahmi Che Mat pulled off a string of saves, including an acrobatic effort to deny Mizuki Hamada, to keep the scoreline respectable at the break.

Malaysia made more of a fist of it after the interval and looked livelier following the introduction of midfielder Wan Zaharul Nizam Wan Zakaira.

But Japan never really looked in danger and they finally doubled their advantage when substitute Kensuke Nagai squared Kiyotake's ball for Yamazaki to bundle home from close range.

Japan, bidding for a fifth consecutive Olympic appearance, are also drawn against Bahrain and Syria in Group C.

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