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Sumo Former yokozuna Musashimaru blasts gamblers.

Discussion in 'Sports General' started by Swami, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Musashimaru blasts gamblers
    Ex-yokozuna has no pity for disgraced Kotomitsuki, saying his lifetime ban was deserved

    Kyodo News
    NAGOYA — Former grand champion Musashimaru has no pity for the likes of Kotomitsuki, the ozeki recently banned for life from sumo after he admitted gambling on pro baseball games.

    The American Samoan, the second foreign-born wrestler to reach sumo's top rank of yokozuna after Hawaiian Akebono, has the ultimate respect for the ancient sport and thinks those who violate the rules should pay the price.

    But the former yokozuna, who won 12 Emperor's Cup titles in his storied career, is not overly concerned with the gambling scandal, saying it comes down to a few rotten apples.

    "It doesn't really bother me. Everyone looks at it different. People who never do it, they're taking a beating, too, but what happened, I just ignore it. I just let it go by me," Musashimaru said in a recent interview.

    The 39-year-old Musashimaru, whose real name is Fiamalu Penitani, is now a coach at the Musashigawa stable and goes by the sumo elder name Furiwake. He set a record of 55 consecutive meets with a majority of wins, or eight or more victories, a mark that still stands today.

    "People ask me, 'What's up with the gambling?' and I say some dumb guys did it. That's it. I just don't talk about it. Everybody in this world or in this country? — they gamble. Nobody's perfect. It's just that we got the stick. They did it the wrong way and they got caught. They got booted," he said.

    Kotomitsuki and former stablemaster Otake received the harshest punishment, as they were both fired by the Japan Sumo Association for betting on baseball, gambling believed linked to the underworld.

    Ten wrestlers in the top juryo and makuuchi divisions have also been suspended from the Nagoya meet, several sponsors have dropped out and NHK has been airing bouts only in a digested version at the end of the day, not live, due to public criticism.

    "You can go to Vegas. And it's legal. But in Japan they did it the wrong way," Musashimaru said.

    Asked if he feels sorry for Kotomitsuki, Musashimaru said bluntly: "No, I don't feel sorry for him. If he felt sorry for us he wouldn't have done it. Right? If he were thinking, then he wouldn't have done that. But he was thinking of himself.

    "The only thing you can do in Japan that is legal is pachinko. Everything else is illegal. Everybody knows that. You're not in Vegas, where everything's out in the public," he said.

    Though critical of the culprits, Musashimaru called NHK's decision not to broadcast the meet live nonsense.

    "I don't know why NHK pulled out. I don't know what their problem is. They should have stayed in. It doesn't make any sense because they show (short replays) on TV anyway. They show replays for about 20 minutes anyway, so why not show the whole thing? A lot of old folks in the countryside look forward to the sumo."

    Yokozuna Hakuho has been on an amazing winning streak at the Nagoya meet, shrugging off the pressure of the scandal. But Musashimaru said his winning ways have more to do with there being no strong opponents out there to beat him than Hakuho's physical ability alone.

    "The guys around him are too weak. That's it. The guys around him better work harder or they're never going to stop him. If anyone can come close to stopping his (winning streak) it would probably be the Bulgarian (ozeki Kotooshu) or the Estonian (ozeki Baruto) and some of the (other) foreign wrestlers," Musashimaru said.

    "In a tournament, you're always gonna have one or two bouts that are 'abunai' (dangerous)," Musashimaru said.

    One strong point about Hakuho, said Musashimaru, is his ability to remain calm under fire. The yokozuna exudes confidence in truckloads.

    "When he's on the ring he's in his own little world. When a guy is coming for him, he can't get in. He's always like that. That's what's good about him. It's hard to beat him because he has faith in beating everybody."

    Like a jovial uncle who reminisces with a twinkle in his eyes about how things were so much different back in the day, Musashimaru said today's wrestlers cannot hold a candle to the "rikishi" (wrestlers) of his generation.

    "In my time it was a different ballgame. We had animals out there. We had four yokozuna at one time and six ozeki. Halfway through the tournament somebody (in that group) would have one or two losses. Hakuho has a winning streak on right now, but it's because there are no guys around to beat him," he said.

    "Take (former yokozuna) Takanohana? He's a great guy. But he didn't have such a long streak because somebody was always bumping him off the boat. That was the difference."

    Musashimaru recounted one of the more famous matches in sumo history — the time he faced the diminutive Mainoumi at the 1992 spring meet, but lost when judges awarded the match to his opponent after a ringside conference.

    "I never lost to the guy. But they gave away my fight to him one time. I picked him up and pile-drived him. I gave him a DDT. They said I lost because my back went down first but his hair was on the ground first. I lost but I told him that I still beat your (butt). You wanna do it again?"

  2. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Yamaguchi-gumi sites raided in sumo probe
    Kyodo News
    Tokyo police on Monday raided offices in Osaka and Fukuoka affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi, the top yakuza syndicate, and related locations in connection with the illegal gambling rocking the sumo world.

    The searches carried out on the Kokusei-kai and Izu-gumi gangs came after three mobsters were arrested Sunday on suspicion of extorting ¥6 million from a former wrestler who allegedly arranged gambling on professional baseball games involving several sumo wrestlers and their elders.

    Two of the three belonged to the Kokusei-kai and the other to the Izu-gumi. They are the first mobsters arrested in the underworld-linked gambling scandal.

    The Kokusei-kai pair were initially asked by the unnamed former wrestler, who was with the Onomatsu stable, to intervene to get him out of trouble with another ex-wrestler associated with the third gangster, investigative sources said.

    The 35-year-old former wrestler had known the two — a 37-year-old senior mobster who calls himself Satohiro Mantani and a soldier, Katsuhito Tahara, 34 — since before he retired in 2006, the sources said.

    After receiving frequent phone calls in January and February demanding money from the other former wrestler, Mitsutomo Furuichi, and Yoshihiko Yasuda, a 45-year-old senior mobster from Fukuoka, the former wrestler reportedly asked Mantani and Tahara to "fix things, as there is a gangster on the other side."

    Furuichi, already charged with extortion in a separate case in the scandal, was served a fresh arrest warrant Sunday over the case.

    Furuichi and Yasuda claimed in extorting the former wrestler that he had let it be known that Furuichi was in arrears on repayments after losing bets on baseball games, the sources said.

    After initially accepting the former wrestler's request, the two Kokusei-kai members, however, asked him how much he could pay, citing Furuichi's claim that the disclosure of his money problems had shamed his brother, a 34-year-old wrestler in the Onomatsu stable, they said.

    The brother was suspended from last month's sumo tournament for involvement in gambling.

    The two mobsters have denied committing extortion, according to the sources, claiming they discussed paying the money with the former wrestler and received ¥6 million from him but did not assist in the actual extortion.

  3. Mrs. JR Ewing

    Mrs. JR Ewing Well-Known Member

    Finally!! They are arresting the mobsters!!!

    IS...Kotomitsuki lifetime ban deserved, Swami?
  4. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Very difficult to say, as there are no real precedents. Futahaguro was virtually kicked out in late 1987 for unacceptable behaviour towards his oyakata and stablemates (and he was a yokozuna, albeit a very poor one), but this is different. But Japanese society is trying to get rid of the yakuza and given the debts that Kotomitsuki was running up (along with Otake Oyakata), it was probably to be expected.

  5. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Yakuza, ex-wrestler given fresh warrants
    Kyodo News
    Police served fresh arrest warrants on Sunday to a former sumo wrestler and two yakuza linked to Yamaguchi-gumi, the nation's biggest crime syndicate, for allegedly trying to extort ¥100 million from former ozeki Kotomitsuki to keep quiet about their gambling activities, investigative sources said.

    The Metropolitan Police Department served the warrants on former sumo wrestler Mitsutomo Furuichi, 38, and mobsters Yoshihiko Yasuda, 45, and Satohiro Mantani, 37.

    The two yakuza demanded ¥100 million from Kotomitsuki during a March 27 visit in Osaka, saying they would expose the names and photographs of sumo wrestlers and elders who had been gambling for the past four or five years if he did not comply, the sources said.

    Kotomitsuki refused to yield to their threats, they added.

    The Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office meanwhile indicted Furuichi and Yasuda the same day in connection with a ¥3 million extortion case involving a 35-year-old former wrestler from the Onomatsu stable who allegedly arranged wagers on professional baseball.

    The prosecutors, however, delayed the case of a 34-year-old yakuza arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice, because there was no solid evidence to corroborate it.

  6. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Sumo cameras to search for yakuza
    Kyodo News
    The Japan Sumo Association will use "mob cams" during the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo in an attempt to throw organized crime out of the traditional sport.

    Determined to remove yakuza from the sport once and for all under new Chairman Hanaregoma, the JSA said Sunday that it will install security cameras at the Kokugikan for the September meet, or "basho," in consultation with the police.

  7. Mrs. JR Ewing

    Mrs. JR Ewing Well-Known Member

    I like the security camera idea.
  8. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    But it needs to be done in conjunction with the police, the JSA can't do this on their own.

  9. Mrs. JR Ewing

    Mrs. JR Ewing Well-Known Member

    True..but they can use the film as evidence. However, in my experience, security cameras are meant to be a proactive approach. In this case, the cameras are being used to make it more difficult for the mob to be so blatantly out in the open with their contact with sumo personel during bashos.
  10. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    We must wait and see.

  11. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Sumo figures who bet on baseball face prosecutors
    Like match-fixers, nine gamblers undone by cell phone text records
    Kyodo News
    Tokyo police on Tuesday handed prosecutors their case against nine people, including two sumo wrestlers, suspected of illegally gambling on professional baseball.

    It is the first such action targeting active wrestlers, including two in the second division of juryo, who allegedly engaged in the actual betting, rather than the organizers of the gambling.

    The two wrestlers are Shironoryu, 27, from Mongolia, and Daido, 28, from Tokyo, the Metropolitan Police Department said.

    Pursuing gambling charges is usually difficult unless offenders are caught red-handed, but police plan to pursue indictments against the nine based on their text messages, which underscored their relations with the betting organizers, sources said.

    The gambling was allegedly organized by Sadahide Furuichi, 34, a former juryo from the Onomatsu stable, and three others who are under arrest, the sources said. The nine are suspected of placing their bets via Furuichi and others starting in April 2009.

    Former ozeki Kotomitsuki, who was fired from the Japan Sumo Association for illegal gambling, has admitted to taking part in a separate baseball betting scam. The police may turn his case over to prosecutors as well, the sources said.

    Hanaregoma, chairman of the sumo association, told reporters that the sport's governing body will keep a close watch on the investigation.

    Stablemaster Sakaigawa apologized over the alleged involvement of Shironoryu, his disciple, in the scandal and said the Mongolian was remorseful.

    The JSA decided Monday night to form a panel to prevent bout-fixing. It will consist of five sumo coaches and three people from outside the sport, to be selected at a later date.

    A special investigative team looking into the match-fixing, in which 14 people have been implicated so far, made its second report to the JSA board Monday but said it had not yet uncovered all the facts.

    As a result, punishment for juryo wrestlers Chiyohakuho and Kiyoseumi, sumo elder Takenawa and lower-division wrestler Enatsukasa, each of whom has either confessed or been linked to rigged bouts, have been postponed.

  12. Mrs. JR Ewing

    Mrs. JR Ewing Well-Known Member

    Hmm...they are forming a committee sounds like my work place. lol
  13. Swami

    Swami Well-Known Member

    Sumo will change or die

    Special to The Japan Times
    "Please hit hard at the faceoff and then go with the flow.''

    "Will do!! I'll put up a little resistance to make it look good.''

    — Text messages exchanged by wrestlers Kiyoseumi and Kasuganishiki (May 10, 2010)

    In the film "Back to the Future," a scientist invents time travel, which leads the character played by Michael J. Fox to prevent his parents from meeting, thus imperiling his own existence. It is a fine and funny film — and a cautionary tale for sumo, which is now facing its most serious crisis ever.

    The match-fixing documented in text messages and acknowledged by several wrestlers raises serious questions about the future of Japan's national sport (kokugi). If sumo is to survive, it cannot pretend to "reform" by clinging to its dysfunctional "traditions," as it has routinely done in the past. If sumo keeps going back to the future, the end result will be self destruction.

    I have followed sumo since I first came to Japan in 1984. The matches are small volcanoes of violence, and the rikishi are impossibly powerful, flexible and fat. If a television is near, it is hard not to watch.

    I also am intrigued by sumo's hybrid nature: part martial art, part sport, part theater. Like karate and kendo, sumo has many ritual elements, a strong emphasis on tradition, and a hierarchical structure. Unlike other martial arts, promotion and demotion are supposed to depend solely on performance in tournaments, with each elite wrestler competing once a day for the 15 days of each of the six tournaments each year. The crucial question is one's record, and there is a world of difference between finishing with eight wins as opposed to seven. Statistical studies suggest that many wrestlers near that threshold throw matches to achieve the coveted outcome.

    Depending on status, there is also a world of difference in how wrestlers are paid and treated. To make it into the highest divisions, where revelations of match-fixing are concentrated, is to be guaranteed an income of more than ¥1 million per month and the services of one or more "assistants" (tsukebito) to help perform such arduous tasks as the pulling on of socks and the wiping of the buttocks.

    It's not a bad lifestyle — if you can make it into the juryo or makuuchi ranks, which employ 70 of Japan's 900 pro wrestlers.

    In principle, achieving that elite status is based solely on one's record, not (as in karate or kendo) on how perfectly one has mastered "form" (kata). But the reality of match-fixing suggests that this principle is pretension. For an activity supposedly premised on merit and governed by norms of fair play, the match-fixing (yaocho) scandal is sumo's worst nightmare — a direct hit to the heart of Japan's national sport. It is also a massive betrayal of trust.

    Sumo will change or die. The illusion of reform — press conferences, bows, apologies, promises — is not enough. And for real reform to occur, it cannot be entrusted to the 105 elders (toshiyori) in the Japan Sumo Association who govern the sport and who have tolerated, condoned and caused the problems that have long plagued this pastime. Allegations of match-fixing have nagged sumo for decades, tainting the reputations of many elite wrestlers, including some yokozuna (grand champions). The JSA has dismissed all allegations as lies or as the misperceptions of ignoramuses. Until now, when there is digital evidence that cannot be denied.

    After the telltale text messages were made public, Hanaregoma, the chairman of the JSA, performed the predictable bows and apologies and then insisted — repeatedly — that "this kind of thing has never happened in the past."

    His claims are contradicted by what many rikishi have confessed. "Match-fixing was kind of a matter of fact among the wrestlers," former komusubi Keisuke Itai told a magazine in 1999. "The fixing used to be much worse than it is now" and "none of us felt any guilt at all." Itai's career as a wrestler, which ended in 1991, overlapped with that of Hanaregoma.

    Besides denouncing whistle-blowers, the JSA is willing to sue to see its truth claims prevail. Some observers believe sumo elders and their agents are also willing to use extra-legal means in order to enforce their version of reality.

    In 1996, after a former wrestler and his supporter went public with allegations of match-rigging, drug use, tax evasion and close connections to the yakuza, both died in the same hospital, hours apart, of "respiratory illness." No proof of poisoning was ever found, so the deaths cannot be called homicides, but causes of death are often misdiagnosed in Japan. In a country where the clearance rate for homicide is 95 percent, these deaths remain two of the most mysterious in postwar history.

    Since the deaths of those two whistle-blowers, a series of scandals has exposed many of the JSA's assertions as self-serving nonsense. Wrestlers do not consort with gangsters, we have been assured, nor do they engage in illicit gambling. And that bar that was all broken up? Sorry about that, but our boys have big bodies, and one of them slipped and fell.

    But facts are stubborn realities. Last summer the JSA was forced to dismiss an ozeki and a stable master for betting on baseball in a ring run by gangsters. Other culpable wrestlers and elders could have been fired or indicted, but meaningful accountability and reform were not pursued. The scandal was put to sleep with the demotion of two more stable masters, the banning of 18 wrestlers for one tournament and displays of bowing.

    The JSA also administered a "survey" to its wrestlers, asking if they had ever gambled or been encouraged to do so. Those who said yes were punished. How's that for an incentive to tell the truth?

    Last month, the gambling scandal was reawakened with the arrest of three former wrestlers — again for betting on baseball. This led to the smoking cell phones.

    Gambling on baseball is a crime, and so is gambling on sumo. It is reasonable to wonder whether one motivation for fixing sumo matches is the desire to guarantee gambling payoffs for self, family, friends and mob affiliates. It is also reasonable to suppose that the text messages discovered so far are from the whole shebang.

    Rigged matches and illegal gambling are one part of a much larger pattern of bad behavior and customs in the insular world of sumo. Connecting the dots is a precondition for meaningful conversations about reform.

    There have been numerous revelations of illicit drug use among wrestlers, and there would be more if the JSA required testing for the use of performance enhancing drugs. In an age when pills and injections can markedly increase power and decrease recovery time, and in a sport where those qualities are cherished, the failure to test for PEDs reflects the depth of the JSA's "see no evil" philosophy.

    Violence outside the ring is a persistent problem. There has been a steady stream of churlish and brutal behavior by sumo wrestlers partying in bars, restaurants and clubs, occasionally with consequences, as when Asashoryu was forced to retire after one tantrum too many. Usually the thuggery is covered up and glossed over by sumo elders and their adoring friends and fans — as it was at least once during the January tournament in Tokyo.

    Violence also permeates life inside the country's 51 sumo stables. Extreme "hazing" is common, ostensibly to "toughen up" young wrestlers and to teach them to respect their elders. Some stable masters have used wooden swords and baseball bats to drive their messages home.

    In 2007, a teenage trainee named Takashi Saito died after his stable master (Junichi Yamamoto) beat him with a beer bottle and a bat and then ordered senior wrestlers to continue this pedagogy of the body on their own. At first the cause of death was falsely reported as heart failure; the real cause was revealed only when the victims' father insisted on an autopsy. Yamamoto and three of his wrestlers denied wrongdoing, but all were eventually arrested and convicted. Yamamoto has been sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter; the others received suspended sentences.

    Nonviolent but premature death is a fact of life for most retired wrestlers. Sumo is the only sport in the world where the rate of morbid obesity approaches 100 percent. The stress of lugging around scores or hundreds of extra pounds results in chronic health problems, from high blood pressure and diabetes to heart attacks and arthritis. Retired wrestlers have a life expectancy of 60 to 65 years, compared to almost 80 for the average Japanese male.

    Sumo also fails to respect norms of equality. Women are excluded from many competitions and ceremonies. They are not even permitted to touch the "sacred" ring lest they pollute it with their two X chromosomes. When Osaka Gov. Fusae Ohta was asked to present a prize to the champion of the annual Kansai tournament, she was required to make the exchange on a walkway next to the ring or to send a male representative. She repeatedly asked to perform this role inside the ring, as her male counterparts do, but her requests were rejected because, the elders insisted that to change this tradition would dishonor their predecessors who had observed it.

    This kind of specious reasoning is common in sumo's echo chamber — as it is with respect to foreigners' participation in the sport. Sumo's top ranks are now dominated by foreign wrestlers, and many elders regard this as a crisis. Last year, the JSA responded by announcing that it would limit sumo stables to one foreign wrestler each — a reduction from the two gaijin rule it established in the late 1990s. The same reform defined "foreign" as "foreign-born," which means that naturalized Japanese citizens are now counted as "foreign." That's back to the future with a vengeance. It may also be illegal.

    The fan in me would like to see sumo survive. But another part of me recognizes that its problems are so severe and so pervasive that perhaps this dinosaur does not even deserve treatment. For sumo to endure in a form that is worth caring about, fundamental reform is essential. That won't be easy, but one thing is clear: The JSA has proven itself incapable of modernizing the sport on its own.

    Meaningful reform will have to be pressed upon it from the outside, by those agents of government charged with overseeing the country's national sport, by the media, which have long been too cozy with the sport to call it properly to account, and by people like you and me, who must decide whether to watch something that, in its present form, is more farce than competition. Sumo has imperiled its own existence. It will take more than the familiar script to save it from extinction.

    David T. Johnson is professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii.


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