Ito Junya leaves Samurai Blue after sexual misconduct allegations

Japanese soccer player Ito Junya has left the national team now competing in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. A Japanese magazine says he has been accused of sexual misconduct against two women.

The Thursday edition of the weekly, Shukan Shincho, quotes the women as saying they were subjected to sexual misconduct by Ito at a hotel in Osaka, western Japan, last June.

Investigative sources say the women filed a complaint with Osaka prefectural police in January. Ito responded by filing a counter-complaint, saying the allegations are false and unfounded. The complaints by both sides were accepted.

The Japan Football Association, which governs the country's soccer, announced on Thursday that Ito would withdraw from Samurai Blue.

The association said the case requires a cautious response as it sees discrepancies in the accounts given by each side. It added that Ito's departure comes out of consideration for his physical and psychological condition.

Ito played in all three group-stage matches at the Asian Cup. But he did not appear on the pitch during the round-of-16 clash against Bahrain on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old now belongs to Stade de Reims, a club in the top tier of the French league. It issued a statement on Thursday that said the club has never called into question the "human qualities and behavior of the Japanese striker."

The statement said Ito remains a full member of the club and "at this stage, the club stands in solidarity with its player."

It added that the club is "awaiting concrete evidence that will shed light on the alleged facts and will follow any related legal developments with great attention."