Japan women’s football team upset as Olympic qualifier venue abruptly shifts to Saudi Arabia

Japan’s women’s football team captain, Saki Kumagai, expressed dissatisfaction with Asian football officials as the away leg of their crucial tie against North Korea for a place in the Paris Olympics has been relocated to Saudi Arabia just days before the scheduled match.

Kumagai, who plays for the Italian club Roma, criticized the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), asserting that they “have a responsibility” to prioritize the well-being of players. The match, initially set to take place in Pyongyang, North Korea, was abruptly moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, leaving the national team with limited time to adjust.

Speaking to reporters in Japan before departing for Saudi Arabia, Kumagai emphasized that such last-minute changes should not occur, highlighting the lack of notice given to the national team. The Japan Football Association (JFA) had reportedly requested the relocation of the first leg due to concerns about operational transparency and a shortage of available flights from North Korea.

Reports indicate that the JFA only received confirmation of Saudi Arabia as the new venue on Monday night, with both the kick-off time and the specific stadium yet to be announced. Kumagai stressed the importance of organizers ensuring that players are in optimal condition and expressed frustration at the unexpected challenges faced by the team.

“As players, it’s our job to prepare for the match, but the organizers definitely have a responsibility to make sure we are in our best condition,” remarked Kumagai. She urged that such situations should not be repeated, emphasizing the impact on the team’s preparation.

Despite the disruption, Kumagai emphasized that the team must not use these circumstances as an excuse and should focus on the upcoming game. With the return leg of the playoff scheduled for February 28 in Tokyo, the uncertainty surrounding the first leg compelled Japan’s England-based players to stay in London until the venue was confirmed, disrupting their initial travel plans. The team remains determined to concentrate on the crucial match and secure their spot in the summer Olympics.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *