Japan winger Junya Ito suspended from Asian Cup over sexual assault allegations

The Japan Football Association has decided to suspend Junya Ito.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) announced today that it has decided to expel Ito from the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.

“Ito will be leaving the Asian Cup. There are no plans to call up a replacement. There are conflicting claims from both parties regarding the allegations, which requires a cautious response. We apologize for any distress caused.”

Ito was recently accused by Japanese media of sexually assaulting women he met at a restaurant after a friendly match against Peru last June.

According to reports, Ito got the women drunk and took them back to his hotel, where there was no consent. The victims demanded an apology, but things escalated when both sides insisted that it was consensual. Eventually, they were unable to come to an agreement and filed charges.

One of the alleged victims, Ms. A, recalled, “I thought, ‘Where are we going, a bar somewhere?’ But then Ito started calling someone, and I heard him say, ‘Let’s have a drink with girls at the hotel.'”

Reports of Ito having sex with two women, including an intoxicated Ms. A, poured in.

“I was unconscious on the bed because I drank a lot of alcohol,” Ms. A said. When I opened my eyes, Ito was on top of me. I remember the scene clearly,” she said.

On June 31, Japan’s Daily Shimbun reported that Ito had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman he met at a restaurant near Osaka after Japan’s friendly A match against Peru in June last year.

Ito fought back. He sued the women. According to Japanese media outlet Tokyo Sports, he denied any sexual misconduct and filed the complaint as a false accusation.

Shockingly, Ito is a married man.

In November 2021, Ito announced on social media, “I married a woman I was dating. I’m working harder than ever. Thank you for your continued support.”

Ito reportedly did not show up for training on the first day. The Japan Football Association responded by saying that he was “adjusting his physical condition.”

However, as soon as the situation with Ito became more serious, the JFA announced its withdrawal from the Asian Cup.

Head coach Hajime Moriyasu said, “We are aware that there is information about Ito in the media. I’ll talk about it after I get it right. I haven’t heard anything yet, so it’s difficult to comment at a press conference. We will respond after our own investigation.”

Reports of Ito’s alleged sexual assault came ahead of Japan’s round of 16 match against Bahrain, where he declined a post-match interview and stormed off the field.

The loss of the key winger has left Japan without a full-strength squad as they aim to win the Asian Cup.

Ito was born in 1993, and after graduating from Kanagawa University, he played for Banfore Kofu, Kashiwa Reysol, and finally joined Belgian side Henk on loan in January 2019.

Ito’s European career got off to a good start, with 29 goals and 49 offensive points in 144 games for Feyenoord.

Ito moved on to France on the back of his performance at Henk. He made the move to Stade Reims for a record transfer fee of €10 million.

Ito made his presence felt at Lille. Last season, he had six goals and five assists in 35 league games, and this season, he has maintained his positive form with two goals and four assists in 17 games.

Ito’s performances continued with the Japanese national team. After making his A-match debut in the 2017 East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Championship, he has been a consistent starter under Moriyasu.

Japan will face Iran in the Asian Cup quarterfinals on March 3. Losing Ito to an untoward incident ahead of the crucial clash is a huge blow.

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