Junya Ito Faces Frustration as National Team Winds Calm, Absence from North Korea Match Raises Questions | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Junya Ito Faces Frustration as National Team Winds Calm, Absence from North Korea Match Raises Questions

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In France, Junya Ito demonstrates sharp movements on the field. However, due to the incident he was not called up to the national team.

On March 14th, the Japan Football Association announced the players for the Japan national team vs. North Korea match in the second round of the Asian qualifiers for the North, Central America, and Caribbean (CONCACAF) FIFA World Cup. Junya Ito, who has been drawing attention, was not selected.

Following the home game against North Korea at the National Stadium on the 21st, Japan will face North Korea in Pyongyang on the 26th. This will be the first time Japan has played against North Korea in their territory since the Asia third round qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil in November 2011. Japan lost the previous match 0-1 and has an overall record of two draws and two losses against North Korea.

Despite being considered a favorite for victory, the “Morihiko Japan” team disappeared from the tournament after suffering a come-from-behind defeat against Iran in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup, which concluded last month. Criticism has been directed at the management decisions of head coach Morihiko, and among the fans, many may cite Ito’s absence as a factor.

Ito was embroiled in a sexual assault allegation reported by “Shukan Shincho” on February 1st during the tournament. A and B accused Ito of sexual assault at a hotel in Osaka in June 2023. It was revealed that they had filed a criminal complaint against Ito and others for quasi-forced sexual intercourse.

“As a result, Ito had to leave the team during the Asian Cup. Shukan Shincho’s decision to report on it during the tournament, rather than after it, prompted strong backlash from soccer fans,” said a sports newspaper soccer reporter.

Afterwards, Ito appointed lawyer Hiroharu Kato as his representative and launched a counterattack. Not only did he file a counter lawsuit against A and others, but he also filed a civil lawsuit seeking 200 million yen in damages, claiming significant losses due to Shukan Shincho’s report.

“During this process, a recorded conversation of Ms. B after the incident was leaked, and it was revealed that A did not live at the address stated in the complaint. It remains unclear how the police and the court will judge the situation in the future, but at least the headwinds against Ito seem to have eased compared to the initial situation,” said a television station insider.

Although Ito was left out of the national team, he continued to play for Stade de Reims in Ligue 1 in France. In the match against the strong team Paris Saint-Germain held on the 10th, he started and created numerous opportunities with his trademark high-speed dribbles. The match ended in a draw, but his presence was remarkable.

On the Internet,

“Junya Ito should definitely be brought back to the national team.”

“It’s absurd not to call up such a sharp and agile player.”

As the voices of soccer fans expressing sentiments surged online, it all seemed in vain as he was ultimately left out of the national team.

The Japan Football Association hinted at considerations for sponsors when explaining why Ito was excluded from the Asian Cup after various twists and turns. While it’s understandable that sports is also a business, the intricacies of such situations can be complex.

“In France, Ito is playing regularly in matches, largely because of the presumption of innocence. On the other hand, the Japan Football Association seems to be waiting for the outcome of the criminal complaint filed by the woman involved before considering Ito’s return.

If he is not prosecuted, he may be able to return to the national team, but investigations can take several months to nearly a year. Well, there haven’t been any rumors about the football association secretly persuading sponsors for Ito’s return. Despite fervent support from fans, it seems that sponsors and public opinion are cooling off,” said the aforementioned sports newspaper reporter.

In an interview published on March 4th in Gendai Business, Ito’s feelings were disclosed through his representative, addressing the series of reports.

“It’s frustrating. I would never commit rape, like a normal person.”

expressing his frustration and disappointment.

The upcoming match against North Korea is expected to be fiercely contested. However, the return of the trump card Ito to the national team still seems to face significant hurdles.

  • PHOTO Nakashiman Isuke/Afro

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