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Urawa Decides on Alpay
Well, the final decision has been made. In my previous entry, I was quite irate at Alpay. I have to admit, I am not an Urawa Reds fan. I usually only watch Reds games when they are playing an interesting match-up or the opponent team is a team I like/support. I don't particularly like his demeanor, I don't like the way he expresses his anger/frustration on the pitch. I am not impressed by his past behavior in the Turkey NT, and I've never thought of his play at Urawa as particularly outstanding compared to other good defenders. But I am human, and I think that looking at various aspects of this incident my opinion has shifted in focus a little.

Browsing around Urawa supporter blogs, I noticed that most supporters want him to stay. In fact, they are counting on his high level personal abilities/skills and the amount of experience he has as a football player. They don't completely agree with some of the things he's done, and acknowledge the problems he's caused for the team and his teammates during the games in question. But the overall feeling seems to be that he is a necessary member of the team, someone who allows the players up front to feel confident in aggressively (and in Reds-like fashion) going for goals. I guess I get that, and who can argue with Urawa supporters' dedication? (lol)

The decision by Urawa in the end was to keep him out of two more games (in addition to the one already applied to him from this weekend's red card) and fine him 500,000yen. Most supporters are relieved as there were rumors in the media that he may be gotten rid of altogether (and we all fell for that).

The next issue that comes out of these Alpay incidents is the judgement of the referees. Most of the J-league refs are pretty biased against Alpay. I read that some refs go out of their way to "warn" Alpay just before a game starts. Is this something they should be doing? Alpay insists that this warning from the ref is distracting and undermines his focus going into a match. Supporters sympathized that such treatment is an insult to his pride. I guess it isn't surprising considering his past behavior. There is a question, though, of whether they are coming down on him more harshly than they would against other players if they do similar things. It's true, certain players in the J do get targeted by refs after collecting lots of reds and gaining that kind of reputation. Cerezo Osaka's former forward Okubo and Reds' forward Emerson used to have bad reputations and piled on the cards. But Okubo has gone to Spain where people around him almost encourage him to act out rather than be quiet. Emerson made it his mission to tone down on the red cards during the second half of last season, and he has successfully done so. But as a defender, it is a more delicate matter. Defenders, by the very nature of their job, are more prone to get yellows and reds. So can Alpay change? Should he change?

Many Reds supporters think that the focus should be on the refs, to give him the same treatment that they do other defenders -- in other words to be objective as their job requires. But J refs are not known to be that great to begin with, and after the hand-ball incident (during the Jubilo/Marinos game a few weeks ago), the quality of refereeing will certainly be an ongoing issue in Japanese football. Reds coach Buchwald has already started the criticism by making a statement to that effect.

Well, this is the decision that Urawa Reds has made, and after a few weeks off perhaps Alpay will find some sort of middle ground. Supporters believe that he loves Urawa enough to play his best and still take into consideration that situation in which he finds himself. Perhaps those around him will give him good advice. Either way, this will surely be another interesting year for the Reds.
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