Soccer: Saudi Arabia apologizes to Yoshida, Japan for fan conduct

© Kyodo News

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation apologized for the behavior of fans confronted by Japan captain Maya Yoshida for making "discriminatory gestures" following Thursday's World Cup qualifier between the countries, Japan Football Association official Kiyotaka Suhara said Saturday.

Yoshida was taunted by Saudi Arabian fans standing behind a pitch-side barrier as he gave an interview following Japan's 1-0 loss at King Abdulla Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, prompting him to approach the section and point to members of the crowd.

The 33-year-old Sampdoria defender did not elaborate on the gestures but said the "very disappointing" behavior had also been an issue during past World Cup qualifiers in the country.

According to Suhara, the JFA's general secretary and CEO, the head of the Saudi federation apologized directly to Yoshida at the venue and later made "a sincere apology to the entire Japanese soccer world, including fans," with a firm promise to deal with the problem spectators.

Yoshida accepted the apology, and the JFA "does not expect further action," Suhara said.

Thursday's defeat has thrown Japan's qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar into turmoil, ratcheting up pressure on manager Hajime Moriyasu.

The Samurai Blue have one win and two losses in the final stage of Asian qualifying ahead of a crucial clash Tuesday at Saitama Stadium against Australia, who sit on top of Group B alongside Saudi Arabia with three wins.

The top two teams from each of the two Asian qualifying groups will automatically reach the 2022 World Cup, with the two third-place sides entering a playoff.