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Football: Urawa play in empty stadium after racist sign

Published on Mar 23, 2014 4:03 PM
 
Journalists and cameramen sit in the press tribune overlooking an empty Saitama 2002 Stadium where the Urawa Red Diamonds are playing against the Shimizu S-Pulse in their J-League football match in Saitama on March 23, 2014. Japan's best-supported club Urawa Red Diamonds on Sunday, March 23, 2014 kicked off a game in an empty stadium as punishment for a racist "Japanese only" banner put up by hardline fans that deeply embarrassed the J-League. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's best-supported club Urawa Red Diamonds on Sunday kicked off a game in an empty stadium as punishment for a racist "Japanese only" banner put up by hardline fans that deeply embarrassed the J-League.

Urawa's match against Shimizu S-Pulse began behind closed doors after league officials hit the club with an unprecedented one-game supporter ban over the sign, written in English and hung over an entrance to the stands at a match on March 8.

An eerie atmosphere greeted the players at the 63,700-capacity Saitama Stadium - a 2002 World Cup semi-final venue - with advertising hoardings replaced by signs promoting the United Nations' Sports for Peace programme and entrance music cancelled.

Fans heeded Urawa's warning not to gather outside the stadium. Security guards patrolled the area, which bustles with fans and food and merchandise stalls on match days.

 
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