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Japan’s Urawa play in empty stadium

Saitama, Japan: Urawa Red Diamonds drew 1-1 with Shimizu S-Pulse on Sunday in a game played in an empty stadium as punishment for a racist ‘Japanese only’ banner put up by hardline fans that deeply embarrassed the J-League.

League officials hit Japan’s best-supported club with an unprecedented one-game supporter ban over the sign, written in English and hung over an entrance to the stands at a match on March 8.

An eerie atmosphere greeted the players at the 63,700-capacity Saitama Stadium — a 2002 World Cup semi-final venue — with advertising hoardings replaced by signs promoting the UN’s Sports for Peace programme and entrance music cancelled.

S-Pulse striker Shun Nagasawa opened the scoring in the 19th minute before Urawa’s Genki Haraguchi slammed home an equaliser in the 76th minute.