Japan captain Maya Yoshida urges Tokyo officials to lift fan ban

The Games will be held under strict health measures with fans largely absent as coronavirus infections continue to climb in Japan

The captain of Japan's men's football team Maya Yoshida has questioned the decision to hold the Olympic Games behind closed doors, calling on authorities to reconsider the spectator ban.

The Games will be held under strict health measures with fans largely absent as coronavirus infections continue to climb in Japan, even though fans are allowed to attend other sporting contests within the country.

Japan played out a 1-1 draw with Spain in their final warm-up before they open the football tournament on Thursday, with a socially-distanced crowd in attendance at Kobe City Stadium.

Matches in the women's tournament will begin on Wednesday.

The presence of the fans moved the former Southampton defender to ask why supporters would not be permitted at the Games, which run until August 8.

"I think a lot of people's tax money is going to hold these Olympics," the Asahi newspaper quoted Yoshida as saying.

"Despite that, people can't go and watch. So you wonder about who the Olympics is for, and what it is for. Of course athletes want to play in front of fans."

With cases rising rapidly, Tokyo has entered into a state of emergency but spectators have continued to attend games in Japan's professional baseball league and in the country's domestic football competition, the J-League.

"Our families have sacrificed and put up with things, they supported us when we were competing in Europe," said Yoshida, who plays his club football in Italy for Sampdoria.

"It's not just the players who were competing, but the family members, every one of them.

"So if they can't watch the match, well who and what is that match for, there is that question. I really hope we can reconsider that seriously."

Two athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village after a team colleague was also infected, officials said on Sunday, raising fears of a cluster just days before the opening ceremony.

Updated: July 18th 2021, 6:26 AM
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