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Soccer: Fan shutout not a problem for Japan, says Fujita

Tokyo, May 2, Kyodo/OANA/IRNA -- Japan midfielder Toshiya Fujita believes the Asian champions can take full advantage of FIFA's decision to hold their upcoming World Cup qualifier against North Korea behind closed doors.

World soccer's governing body has ordered North Korea to hold the June 8 qualifier, scheduled to be played in Pyongyang, behind closed doors at a neutral venue in another country as punishment for crowd trouble that followed their 2-0 defeat by Iran on March 30.

"Playing behind closed doors will be a minus for our opponents but it certainly won't be a problem for us," Fujita told Kyodo News after Jubilo Iwata's 4-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol in the J-League on Sunday.

"You wouldn't believe the strength the players get from the crowd when you are at home. They (North Korea) won't have that so I really think that gives us an advantage," added the 33-year-old former J-League Player of the Year.

Fujita is the only player in the national team to have experienced playing an official match without spectators allowed in the stadium.

During his short spell with Dutch club Utrecht he played in a UEFA Cup tie against MKS Zilina of Slovakia that was held behind closed doors because of crowd problems in a previous match.

"You get a few people turning up for practice matches but playing an official match in an empty stadium is a different experience altogether.

"It's difficult psychologically, trying to get yourselves pumped up, so the most important thing is that the players stay focused.

"But it is a World Cup qualifier and obviously a very important match so it goes without saying that the players will be highly motivated," he said.

Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi expressed surprise at the severity of the penalty handed down on Friday to the North Koreans but Fujita felt the punishment was appropriate.

"I don't think anything is quite set in stone yet regarding this issue but I'm sure if it was Japan that had been given this kind of punishment we'd feel really hard done by.

"But at the same time, what happened, happened and that's why the penalty was given. That's the way things go," he said.

North Korea are reportedly set to appeal against FIFA's decision, which came after North Korean fans, incensed by the late sending-off of Nam Song Chol, showered the pitch with rocks, bottles and chairs.

A mob of thousands stopped the Iranian players from leaving outside the stadium after the match, requiring police to restore order.

... Payvand News - 5/2/05 ... --

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