Friday’s match between Beerschot and Lierse was supposed to be hotly-contested derby, but events were overshadowed by the mindless stupidity of the away fans, subjecting Japanese international goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to horrific chants about March’s disaster.
Referee Luc Wouters called a halt to proceedings in the second-half after some Beerschot supporters chanted ‘Kawashima, Fukushima’ repeatedly, and some even threw cans onto the field at the keeper as he was about to take a goal-kick.
Shortly after the restart, Hernan Losada scored for the away team and Kawashima was quite rightly shaken from previous events. Reports claim that after full-time, Kawashima was left in tears in the Lierse locker-room.
He spoke afterwards to the media saying “I am prepared to forget about a lot of things, but not that. It is not remotely funny.”
Kawashima, originally from Saitama, spent 9 years playing across Japan before moving to Lierse in 2010. During the off-season, he has returned home to aid the relief effort in parts of the country affected. He also played in the Osaka charity match back in March, showing how committed he is to helping Japan. At the time of the disaster, Kawashima said he was struggling to stay focused on football given the scale of the disaster and being so far away from home. His family lived near Tokyo, about 200km away but he feared of the nuclear threat. He even played for the club in the immediate aftermath, receiving great fan support from across Belgium and helping Lierse avoid relegation. It shows tremendous courage from the man, to play football at a time when football really comes second.
Beerschot released a statement on the club’s website deploring the fans’ actions. It said “The chants directed at Lierse goalkeeper Kawashima were so offensive and totally inappropriate. The throwing of projectiles on the ground under any circumstances out of the question. Both incidents damage our club, which every day is distinguished by a large social engagement in the community of Antwerp.”
The statement also suggests that Kawashima incited the away support with gestures, which they claim made the situation worse. They also note that debuting Beerschot keeper Stijn Stijnen receieved abuse from the home support, but didn’t respond to it.
It finishes - In any case, Beerschot AC would like to stress insults directed at victims and survivors of such disasters can not be tolerated. The club calls for calm and serenity, and calls for a consistent and straightforward approach to this problem on all Belgian football.
Even if Kawashima did react, what do you expect him to do? Around 25,000 people died in the tsunami/earthquake, and the entire infrastructure of Japan was brought to its knees. I find Friday’s events incredibly sickening for some football fans to stoop so low. It doesn’t at all surprise me though. Beerschot have a history of distasteful chants to put it mildly. Whilst I don’t want to tar every Beerschot fan with the same brush, the league has to clamp down on this: either with several home games behind closed doors, a heavy fine or even a points deduction.
Disasters should never be made fun of, especially not from the terraces. This incident has received a lot of global coverage, and obviously a lot more in Japan. I wouldn’t blame Kawashima for leaving the league either soon. It could portray Belgian football in a particularly bad light. Belgian fans certainly are some of the most passionate in Europe, but there are moments where passion overflows and crosses the line.
Personally, I hope the league throw the book at Beerschot for their ‘fans’ despicable incitement on Friday evening. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter too, so comment below.
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