Saki Kumagai and Japan Women’s Soccer Team in a Small Scandal

July 22, 2011

Saki Kumagai, the Japan defender most World Cup fans will remember as being just a moment late on Alex Morgan’s goal in the World Cup final game this year, has been warned by the Japan Football Association. All of her pending media appearances have also been put on hold.

The player attended a celebration party with friends from her days at Hosei University, and after having a bit to drink, began to make inappropriate comments about the team. One person at the party decided to relay her comments on twitter, including photos of him and other members holding and biting the gold medal she received.

She was reported to have:

  • made disparaging comments about the coach of the team
  • said that bullying was rampant and the hierarchical relationships were very strict. She also said that Mana Iwabuchi, being one of the youngest and cutest members of the team was especially troubled by bullying.
  • showed, or (allowed to be seen, if the phone was taken without her permission) a locker room photo taken on her iPhone showing teammate Karina Maruyama naked from the waist up
  • said that she didn’t even want the gold medal and offered it to anyone who wanted it.
  • offered to invite Aya Sameshima to the next party.
  • commented that despite being “ugly” Aya Miyama wore perfume on the field.
Taken separately, some people may not feel these are too big a problem or breach of trust, but in the wake of the biggest women in Japanese soccer history, the lack of decorum is not something the Japan Football Association will stand for. The man who did the twittering of the conversation, Daiki Hashimoto, was warned by Hosei University to make clear that he does not represent them.
Here is a link to a Japanese page putting all the pieces together including some of the photos from the party that were circulated.


1 Peter July 24, 2011 at 6:24 am

Do not blame her, she is a great football star, without her final shot,
Japan may not win this game. I like her very much!

2 jay@newzjapan July 24, 2011 at 10:07 am

Peter – You’re right of course, and how could she have known someone would be sitting there twittering any negative thing she said. I know that she’s apologized through her own Twitter account, and is probably rebuilding the trust she had.

I also know, however, that Japanese officials don’t like this kind of loose behavior, and she’s probably lost a few fans and possibly a lot of appearance money for tv shows and sponsorship as well. It can at least be an object lesson for other players and athletes finally finding themselves in a very public position.

3 Dave July 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Not sure what to make of this one. The photos I couldn’t give a damn about, but you shouldn’t be making comments like that online or otherwise about your coach and teammates and not expect repercussions.

BTW, could you change the address of my site on your blogroll? Thanks 🙂

4 jay@newzjapan July 29, 2011 at 11:42 am

Sorry about the blogroll, Dave. My own Google Reader feed and bookmarks are updated so I’ll get to the blogroll tonight!

As for Kumagai, she’s kind of a victim here as well because she had no idea the guy would be “live twittering” every little NEGATIVE thing she said. A lot of the 2ch-ers mentioned that it shows the power of alcohol, while others thought she was showing off a bit and dishing.

I hope she see makes up with her teammates because I don’t think she deserves to lose her career over this.

5 Dave July 29, 2011 at 11:47 am

My bad. I read your story wrong and thought SHE was Tweeting (or Twittering, or whatever it is the cool kids do these days) these comments.