The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is investigating claims that someone in the crowd at the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in Riyadh on Saturday shone a laser beam into the eyes of the Urawa Reds goalkeeper.
Images in the Tokyo media seemed to confirm the presence of a green light on Shusaku Nishikawa’s face during the game with Al-Hilal at the King Fahd International Stadium that ended 1-1.
“I knew it was a laser,” Nishikawa told Japanese sports newspaper Sports Nippon. “I got it in the first half and also during a free-kick in the second half.”
Nishikawa had an impressive game in goal, saving a number of times to ensure Urawa head into the second leg with a slight advantage of a draw and an away goal. He admitted that the laser made his job more difficult.
“When it was shone directly in my eyes then my view was a little blurred but I kind of expected it as this game was played in the Middle East,” Nishikawa said, adding that he had experienced a similar incident when on national team duty against Syria in Oman during qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Players from Australia, Japan and South Korea have complained of receiving similar treatment when playing in West Asia in recent years, especially on international duty during important World Cup qualification games.
Clubs and national teams can be held responsible for improper conduct of spectators as detailed in the AFC’s 2017 Disciplinary and Ethics Code. In March 2017, Iran’s Esteghlal were fined $51,000 by the AFC after fans pointed lasers in the direction of players from Qatari club Al-Sadd in the AFC Champions League.
Esteghlal were also told that further offenses would result in a future home game being played behind closed doors.
“The AFC is aware of the reports and are looking into the matter,” a spokesperson for the confederation told Arab News when asked about the incident on Saturday.
Urawa have also informed the AFC of alleged racial abuse of their players on social media.
“Some Urawa Reds players including Rafael Silva and Mauricio de Carvalho Antonio have recently received discriminatory comments on their Instagram accounts,” read a statement on the club website. “Rafael released a message stating that he is saddened by the fact that racists still exist in this world and that he is proud of his skin color.
Following this, Urawa Reds reported the incident to the AFC. We protect our players who are members of the Urawa Reds family from any discrimination.”
The second leg of the final takes place in Saitama on Saturday.
“We will have a very important match ahead of us ... in which Urawa Reds will battle for the crown of victory for the ACL after 10 years,” added the club statement. “We would like to ask our fans and supporters to fight together with us so that we can win the title without being distracted by the incidents happening outside the pitch.”
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