Japanese referee Hiroyoshi Takayama has come under fire for inappropriate comments allegedly made toward Avispa Fukuoka midfielder Noriyoshi Sakai, the half-German brother of Stuttgart and Japan defender Gotoku Sakai.
According to Sponichi, Takayama asked Sakai “Are you okay?” in English after the 22-year-old fell as a result of a collision during a June 6 match against Tokushima Vortis. Upon responding in the affirmative in Japanese, Takayama was accused of sneering at the player and saying “Hey, you can speak Japanese.”
One of Sakai’s Avispa teammates objected, prompting the 41-year-old referee to promise an apology after the match. It was not delivered, and the club lodged a protest with the match commissioner following the 1-0 win.
“He may look foreign, but a referee who has spent so long in the J-League should know about Noriyoshi,” a club official told the newspaper. “His comments could be interpreted as discriminatory.”
Forty-one-year-old Takyama, who became a FIFA referee in 2004, has denied the accusations.