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Japan: The Whistle of the Middle East

The ballThe sport of handball is receiving the kind of attention from the media and general public it never has before in Japan, as well as in Korea. The dispute came to light when Korea and Japan together appealed to the International Handball Federation for replay of the Olympics qualifiers of the Asian region because of some dubious judgements made by referees. The allegation is that the Asian Handball Association (AHF), chaired by Kuwaiti royal Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, changed the European referees to ones from the Middle East just before Kuwait's matches against Japan and Korea to tilt the games in favour of Kuwait.

While the bickering seems to be getting rather ugly, here's what some Japanese bloggers had to say.

We Are Family criticizes the so-called “Whistle of the Middle East” and thinks that the characteristics of Japanese people may have played a role in the whole thing:

あの「中東の笛」と呼ばれるスポーツにあるまじき行為・・・。個人的にはスポーツはお金や権力に左右されずにみんなに平等であるべきだと思うけど・・。では何故今それが話題になってきたのか?これまではなかったのか?と考えると・・・日本の自己主張力がないような気がする。今回の問題も韓国のおかげで事が大きくなったし。多分日本は不公平なジャッジでもしょうがないと思っていたに違いない。そこがやはり外国と日本との考え方(価値観)の違いなんだろうねぇ。まあこれからはもっと国際化してくなかで日本人が直さないと世界とは戦えないという事が増えてくるかもしれないねぇ。。頑張れ日本!!

This thing called “the whistle of the Middle East”, unacceptable behaviour in sports… I personally believe that sports should not be influenced by money or power and should be equal for everybody…
So, why has it been brought into question now? Has it not happened before now? I thought… I think Japanese people lack self-assertiveness. Japanese must have thought even though they received unfair judgments, there was nothing they could do about it. I guess that is the difference between Japanese and foreign ways of thinking (values). Well, I think there will be more things that Japanese have to change in order to compete in the world… Keep it up Japan!

Sports News points out that unfair judgments are not anything unique to the Middle East but are a common affair in sports.

にわかに脚光を浴び始めた「中東の笛」という言葉ですが、中東に限らず地元のチームに有利な判定が出ることを「ホームタウン・デシジョン」と言います。これはプロの世界ではボクシングでかなり露骨に見られる場合があります。例えば問題になった亀田興毅VSランダエタの第1戦などもその一つであると考えられます。あの時は驚異的な視聴率をとったこともあり、多くのボクシングビギナーもTV観戦したことから大問題となりましたが、海外で日本人が(日本人に限りませんが)試合をした場合に、地元の選手に有利な判定で涙を飲むことは珍しくないんですよね。
「中東の笛」は批判されてしかるべきですが、スポーツの試合に完全なクリーンさを望むのもどうかと思います。一番ホクホクしているのは、高視聴率がとれそうなコンテンツのできたテレビ局かも。

This expression “the whistle of the Middle East” has started to attract a lot of attention all of a sudden, but not only in the Middle East — a judgment which is advantageous to the local team is called a “hometown decision”. In professional fields, there are cases where this can be found quite blatantly in boxing. For example, the first match of Kameda Koki vs Juan Landaeta is thought to be one of them. It became a big issue because it marked a phenomenal viewing rate and many beginners in boxing watched the match on TV, but when Japanese (although not just limited to Japanese) play overseas, it is not so unusual that they players have to hold back their tears when judgments are in favour of the local players.
“The whistle of the Middle East” deserves criticisms, but I am not sure about demanding absolute cleanliness in sports matches. Perhaps the happiest ones are the TV stations, who now have content with which they can win higher viewing rates.

Finally, hanasinogomibako writes:

クウェートの王族が実権を握っているのだから友好関係にひびが入るほうが心配 
中東諸国が石油を日本に売らないと言われたほうが心配
日本は北京五輪に出られたとしてもメダルを取れるほど強くはないし予選で韓国にも負けているほどだから 
ハンドボールの件は日本韓国のアピールが通ったのだから次回からは公平に成ると思う。
スポーツと政治は別ものだが歴史を見れば関係大有り。

Because the Kuwaiti royal family has the power, I am more worried about ruining the friendly relationship.
I am more worried that the Middle Eastern countries might say that they will not sell their oil to Japan anymore.
Even if Japan goes to the Olympics, it is not good enough to win a medal and it has lost to Korea in the qualifying game.
In the handball case, since the appeal made by Japan and Korea made it through, it will be fair next time.
Sports and politics are two separates things, but if you look at the history there is obviously a connection.

(Top image: Reproduced under GNU Licence)

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