TOKYO: Japan captain Maya Yoshida has warned that problems on and off the pitch are embarrassing the Asian Cup as the Blue Samurai prepare to face Qatar in Friday’s final.
The Southampton defender called on tournament organisers to deal swiftly with incidents of “stupidity” that, according to Yoshida, risk damaging the reputation of Asian football.
His plea came as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed to AFP that it had received a protest over the eligibility of two Qatari players from host country the United Arab Emirates and were investigating.
“I think the AFC should control stuff about penalties and suspensions,” Yoshida said Thursday, noting also that Japan’s tempestuous 3-0 semi-final victory over Iran had ended with rival players almost coming to blows.
“But I would mention that if (the tournament) is broadcast all over the world, you don’t want to see any stupid things, especially after the game,” he added.
“We are representing Asia under the hashtag #bringingasiatogether — so it’s important to represent Asia by playing good football and with fair play.”
The tournament slogan has rung hollow in the Emirates, where finalists Qatar have been frequently abused by hostile local fans over the Gulf blockade of the tiny, energy-rich state.
The Qatari players were pelted with plastic bottles and shoes after thrashing the hosts 4-0 in the semi-finals in disgraceful scenes that brought shame on the Asian Cup and prompted another AFC investigation.
Japan’s upset of title favourites Iran also came close to boiling over, with Yoshida himself needing to be restrained by teammates after reacting furiously to a petulant slap from Sardar Azmoun.
“We met some of the Iran guys in the lift and they apologised for what happened,” said Yoshida, looking forward to Friday’s final in Abu Dhabi.
“I expect both teams to give 100% effort tomorrow, with fair play, to show the world how we play. That would be a big step, not only for Japan but Asian football.”
The Asian Cup has seen its share of controversial refereeing decisions, with hosts UAE twice awarded soft late penalties that left rivals players and coaching fuming.