Urawa play in empty stadium
Saitama Stadium was eerily quiet yesterday as hosts Urawa Reds were forced to play behind closed doors due to racist behavior by some of their fans. Under the stiffest punishment yet to be issued by the 20-year-old J-League, Urawa and Shimizu S-Pulse played their game before 63,000 empty seats. Other than a handful of journalists and security staff, the stadium was completely empty. The harsh ruling came after a fan displayed a banner at Urawa’s home stadium two weeks ago that bore the words “Japanese Only” written on it. The sign was put up at a stadium entrance, but was not removed until after the March 8 game. Shun Nagasawa scored in the 19th minute for Shimizu and Genki Haraguchi equalized after the break as the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Urawa is one of the best-supported clubs in Japan and had average attendance of more than 37,000 last season. It was the first time in league history a match was played at an empty stadium. Urawa captain Yuki Abe read from a statement before the game, expressing the team’s regret over the incident. The team announced it will prohibit supporters from displaying signs and banners of any kind at all home games.
Policeman killed in favela
A policeman was shot in the throat and killed in a Rio de Janeiro slum on Saturday, a day after the federal government stepped in to bring violent favelas under control before the World Cup. Police said the 44-year-old officer was shot in an exchange of gunfire in a western district in the early hours after he had challenged two young men who fled on a motorbike. On Friday, Rio State Governor Sergio Cabral held emergency talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff after a spate of similar attacks, with Brazilian Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo later confirming that the federal government in Brasilia had agreed to provide army support for Rio police. Broadcaster Globo’s G1 news portal reported on Saturday that a 120-strong police contingent had moved into the sprawling northern Mare slum, after police occupied three nearby favelas overnight. With the World Cup barely 10 weeks away, Cardozo insisted the government had every confidence in its “excellent security plan” for the soccer extravaganza.
FIFA apologizes to Brazil
FIFA performed an embarrassing U-turn on Saturday and apologized, saying it had withdrawn publicity material for the World Cup in Brazil that poked fun at local customs. Just weeks after sports merchandiser Adidas pulled from the market two shirts that Brazil viewed as sexist, FIFA has now removed material that depicted Brazilians as unpunctual, impatient and even chaotic. FIFA said its attempts at humor had backfired. “The material was light-hearted and at no time was meant to criticize Brazil,” a FIFA statement said.
Andrade, Funk share lead
Billy Andrade shot a seven-under 65 to share the lead with Fred Funk after the second round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Saturday. Andrade had the low round of the day, capping it with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18. Funk shot a 67. Andrade is playing in just his fourth Champions Tour event. His best finish was eighth place at the ACE Group Classic last month. Fred Couples started the day with a two-stroke lead, but fell into a tie for second place after shooting a 71. Jay Haas and Jeff Maggert both had 69 to join Couples one stroke behind the leaders. Andrade and Funk are at eight-under 136.