Japan’s Gamba apologizes over SS-like flag

Wu Xi , left, of Jiangsu FC controls the ball, during the AFC Champions League group stage football match against Japan's Gamba Osaka, in Nanjing earlier this month. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Japan’s Gamba apologizes over SS-like flag

TOKYO: Japanese J-League side Gamba Osaka has apologized after a flag reportedly bearing markings similar to those of the Nazi SS was displayed during a recent match.
Gamba supporters were seen waving a flag with the markings “very similar to the symbol” of the Nazi paramilitary organization in the form of a double S during a game on Sunday, team spokesman Kenji Okunaga told AFP on Friday.
“We apologize to our supporters, fans and many others for causing discomfort,” Gamba said on its website Thursday, pledging it “will take strict measures once we find out” who was responsible.
“We are talking with people who are believed to have displayed the flag, but we’ve not yet identified who did it,” Okunaga said, declining to elaborate on what kind of measures the team may take.
The incident came after the J-League in 2014 ordered the Urawa Red Diamonds, one of its teams, to play in an empty stadium as punishment for a “Japanese only” banner that fans displayed during a match in Tokyo.
The J-league prohibits displays of any kind linked to political ideology, religion or race and also bans racial and other forms of discrimination.
The waving of the flag by Gamba supporters was reported to a team official after the game at opponent Cerezo Osaka, and Gamba confirmed it.
But the team said Sunday’s case was similar to a previous incident, which took place several years ago.
Then Gamba Osaka only issued a warning to the supporter group that displayed it as it was determined there was no political intention behind it, the team said on the website.
But the repeat offense Sunday “can never be tolerated and is extremely regrettable,” Gamba said.
Periodic actions and comments in Japan deemed anti-Semitic have drawn controversy and international criticism, though ignorance rather than malicious intent has usually been blamed.
Last year, Sony Music and the producer behind a Japanese girl band apologized for having the singers perform in military-style costumes resembling Nazi uniforms.
And rock band Kishidan angered the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2011 when they wore a costume the Jewish human rights organization organization said resembled a Nazi uniform.


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 20 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.