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Goal Japan chief editor Cesare Polenghi reveals how a quote attributed to Manchester United’s Japanese player travelled around the world for all of the wrong reasons...

OPINION
By Cesare Polenghi | Chief Editor, Goal Japan


Italians are fond of the phrase “a whole storm in a glass of water.” We use this to describe what happens when a small detail or an innocent word gets inflated, until it turns into a huge problem that didn’t exist before.

On this occasion I am describing the case of the alleged quotes by Shinji Kagawa after Japan’s 3-1 win against Ghana that, thanks to the Internet, quickly spread around the world.

“Why am I not playing [with Manchester United]? Go ask [manager David] Moyes!” the Samurai Blue playmaker is said to have told reporters. Since Tuesday night, I have read Kagawa’s words in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.

I have not read them in Japanese, and I think I know why: because it’s very likely that they were never spoken by the player himself

However, I have not read them in Japanese, and I think I know why: because it’s very likely that they were never spoken by the player himself.

After the game, I listened to the audio recording of Kagawa’s comments in the mixed zone, and I read the transcript of his conversation with Japanese journalists.

“Scoring that goal gave me confidence,” Japan’s No. 10 said with satisfaction about his performance against Ghana. He seemed genuinely happy about the evening in Yokohama, and he did not mention David Moyes.

Truth be told, Kagawa did speak about the Manchester United manager last Friday, after Japan-Guatemala, and he did it with the usual humility that distinguishes the great majority of Japanese players: “When I go back to England I will [make a greater effort] to understand the manager,” he said.

My colleague Ben Mabley has correctly pointed out that Kagawa, when leaving the mixed zone, might have politely turned down a question by answering “Please, you should ask Mr. Moyes.” Yet it is highly unlikely that Kagawa’s intent and tone resembled what has been reported by International media. Those who know Shinji, even if only as a player and a public figure, are well aware that arrogance is not one of his traits.

It’s disappointing that these reports did not focus on Kagawa’s achievements on the pitch, such as the goal against Ghana that was comparable to those of Cristiano Ronaldo

In a way, I am delighted that news about Japanese players is being treated importantly by international media. However, it’s disappointing that these reports did not focus on Kagawa’s achievements on the pitch, such as the goal against Ghana that was comparable to those of Cristiano Ronaldo.

At the same time, there should be a greater effort to exercise cultural sensitivity in cases like this one. While even the top Japanese players still have room to improve on the pitch, as sportsmen they are impeccable professionals who would be extremely unlikely to openly criticize their managers.

Moyes, like Sir Alex Ferguson and others before him who have managed Japanese players, is surely aware of that. Those whose job it is to write headlines should be just as understanding.

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