Japanese soccer club criticized for using monkey to kick off match

A Japanese soccer club is under fire after is used a trained monkey to kick off a recent match.

Cerezo Osaka, a team in the J-League, brought out the monkey – tied to a leash – and had him pick up the soccer ball before carrying it to the referee.

The small macaque was sporting a team jersey while home supporters appeared to cheer him on.

The match was against Vissel Kobe on Saturday. Cerezo Osaka won 3-1.

The video of the moment started making its rounds earlier this week, with viewers on social media condemning the club’s actions.

“I felt sick watching this. Japan (a beautiful and diverse country) remains at the opposite end of the scale to Britain as far as modern animal care and cruelty is concerned,” one person wrote on Twitter. “They need to wake up, or allow monkeys to tether their populace around the neck.”

Animal rights group PETA also condemned the club, expressing its disgust with the stunt.

“This stunt defies the very spirit of [soccer] – a fair game between willing participants. For the monkey, who’s being used as a living prop, it’s no game,” Elisa Allen, PETA’s UK director, told Goal.com. “Monkeys forced to perform at events are usually taken away from their mothers shortly after birth – a heart-breaking trauma from which neither they nor their loving mothers ever fully recover – and are deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them.”

Allen continued: “PETA urges the J League to call a red car on using animals for any stunts and to retire this monkey to an accredited sanctuary where he or she can enjoy some semblance of a natural life.”

The J League has not commented.