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Yokohama fined $48,000 over banana-waver

AFP
File photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows Kawasaki Frontale forward Renato (R) during an AFC Champions League match in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture
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File photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows Kawasaki Frontale forward Renato (R) during an AFC Champions League match in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Tokyo (AFP) - Japanese club Yokohama F-Marinos were hit with a $48,000 fine by the J-League on Friday after a supporter racially abused a black player during a game last weekend.

The J-League denied that the punishment was more lenient than had been expected, telling AFP they had taken into consideration the fact it has been Yokohama's "first offence".

A video showing a Yokohama fan waving a banana at Kawasaki Frontale's Brazilian striker Renato lit up social media last Saturday, causing embarrassment to the club and the J-League, where racial taunting is relatively rare.

Yokohama did promptly identify the culprit and banned him for life, but J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai said: "The club dealt with the case appropriately but we did not feel they were doing enough to raise awareness (of racism), as is their responsibility."

The J-League had been expected to come down heavily on Yokohama after fans and players alike expressed their anger at the incident, with former Japan defender Yuji Nakazawa, who plays for F-Marinos, slamming the racist abuse as "pathetic".

Yokohama appear to have escaped lightly, despite strong remarks made by Murai condemning the incident and describing it as a major blow in their fight to weed out discrimination in the J-League.

Earlier this year, Urawa Reds were ordered to play a J-League game behind closed doors after fans unfurled a banner reading "Japanese only" over one of the stadium entrances.

The Reds, Japan's best-supported team, were also fined five million yen ($48,000) in 2010 following racial abuse of foreign players.

The J-League told AFP the fine had been in line with FIFA guidelines.

"The defining point in this case is that it is the first time Yokohama have been involved," spokesman Kunio Yoshida said. "Under FIFA rules this carries a minimum fine of 30,000 euros ($40,000).

"Urawa's closed-door punishment was because it was not the first time their fans had transgressed."

Murai added in a statement posted on the J-League website: "I wish to express my deepest apologies to the player subjected to such provocative behaviour, to Kawasaki Frontale officials and supporters, and to everyone who suffered offence."

There is a history of bad blood between supporters of Yokohama and Kawasaki, who have clashed at recent games, while sporadic racist taunts have also crept into the rivalry between the regional neighbours.

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