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Japanese Football aka Soccer (Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo) December 1, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-jk

This year, 2009, I have had the luxury of attending two football games in Japan.  Last year, I wrote about my experiences to see football for the first time. This time, I had a different experience.  I was lucky enough to introduce a couple friends to FC Tokyo, and more recently, I was able to see a game as an Urawa Reds fan.  Generally, my first experience with FC Tokyo was how things were in 2009.  When attending a game, once you reach the stadium, you have to head into the stands where you’ll get your seat.  Then, just wait and enjoy the game.  FC Tokyo still runs “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and they still salute the crowd after every game, regardless of the results.  Since I was in the visitors side for a game this year, this post will reflect the feelings and emotions of the opposing time.

On November 8th, I headed into Ajinomoto with a friend of mine.  We were meeting a couple of Japanese guys who are big Urawa Reds fans.  Since it was Urawa, the entire visitors section was full.  It was all red and black, the team colours.  There were the die hards sitting in the front row behind the goal and a bank of over 10 huge flags.  There were also various flags of other countries flying in the main section.  Essentially, if it was red and black, it was flown.  The flag of Yemen, or the old German flag, was also flown because of the colours.  The significance of the country itself wasn’t important.  Getting to the stadium early, as in any other game, is important if you want to get good seats.  Roughly an hour before the game starts, the cheering starts.  There are a few dozen different chants that the crowd does.  There is generally a leader in the main stands along with a drummer to keep the beat.  There may be more than one drummer.  There are a few basic cheers and everyone has to stand and do the cheer.  The Japanese guys I was with were a little sad as the cheering had been started a little early for their tastes.  You need a little energy for the game as well.

During the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for FC Tokyo, the Urawa fans went crazy.  Lots of comments talking about how stupid it was to sing the song, and when they talked about FC Tokyo, they cheered and whistled as loud as they could.  It’s nice to see that they’ll do anything to support their own team.  Upon the kick-off, the cheering subsided so that the fans could watch the game.  The flags were down and only basic cheers could be heard.  Everyone was at the edge of their seats hoping a weak Urawa would be able to beat FC Tokyo.  To give a little insight into the game, both Urawa and FC Tokyo were in trouble.  Urawa is in a sort of rebuilding season, and FC Tokyo’s main ace was injured, and their top foreign player left to play in the Middle East, for more money.  However, FC Tokyo had recently won the Nabisco Cup, so they had the advantage of momentum.  The first half of the game was pretty boring.  FC Tokyo dominated the game with several shots on goal, but Urawa was limited and trapped in the mid-field.  For the second half, the game remained the same, but Urawa made one excellent play where a couple of strikers broke free of the defence and scored.  The crowd was ecstatic and the cheering was deafening; soon after, FC Tokyo also scored, but it was an off side goal.  By the end of the game, Urawa kept their 1-0 lead and won the game.  Obviously, the Urawa fans stuck around and saluted their players.

In general, the FC Tokyo fans are never very loud.  They enjoy the games and they cheer on their players, but I think the visiting teams are always louder.  They tend to be more focused compared to FC Tokyo.  I’m sure the FC Tokyo fans are also louder when visiting other stadiums, but at home, it’s sad to see they aren’t close enough to shake the stadium.  I still highly recommend going to an FC Tokyo game.  It’s very close to Tokyo itself and the team is still pretty good.  If you have a free afternoon/evening, it’s only 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station.  You don’t need to buy tickets ahead of time, but do wear blue.  Avoid any other colours or you might have to buy your own jersey.


Ajinomoto Stadium (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/
Ajinomoto Stadium (Event Schedule – Japanese):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/schedule/index.html
Ajinomoto Stadium (Access – Japanese):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/access/index.html

FC Tokyo (English Homepage):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/english/index.phtml
FC Tokyo (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/
FC Tokyo (Schedule):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/english/index.phtml?schedule=1
FC Tokyo (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.C._Tokyo

Urawa Reds (English Homepage):  http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index_e.html
Urawa Reds (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index2.html
Urawa Reds (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urawa_Red_Diamonds

Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo) November 4, 2008

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo) complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-3Q

On October 26th, 2008, I made my third adventure of the year to watch Professional Japanese sports.  I headed out to Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu to watch a football game.  Built in 2001, Ajinomoto Stadium is the home of FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy.  It was originally built as a track and football stadium, but it has yet to hold any athletics matches.  Due to the nature of the design of the building, I’ve been told that the acoustics of the stadium aren’t good for football.  I guess I agree, but unfortunately, I’ve never been to a purpose built football stadium.  In general, I will say that the stadium is well built, but the overall design and layout needs to be improved.

Ajinomoto  Stadium is located a short 5 minute walk from Tobitakyu Station on the Keio Line.  During the football games, all Keio trains stop at this station.  Do note that to get the best seats, you need to arrive before the first train.  Upon arriving at the station, you are greeted with banners proclaiming that you are indeed at the right place.  Banners promoting FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy are hung within the station, and all along the road you’ll see FC Tokyo banners on most shops.  It’s also very busy as you walk to the stadium.  I recommend buying whatever food and drink you need before heading to the stadium.  While the train is extremely busy, you’ll at least have everything and don’t have to fight with everyone else for what little shops are available.  Note that there are long lines for any restaurant.  If you are only in need of beer, the traditional beer girls are there.  There are more guys selling beer, and they don’t have silly uniforms.  🙂

When I arrived at the stadium, I had trouble finding seats behind the home team goal.  It’s also good to get information on where to sit before heading to the game.  I spent 5 minutes asking a bunch of staff where to sit, but they weren’t too clear as to where it was okay.  Thankfully, a fan helped me out and I discovered that half of the stadium was reserved for the home team fans.  Again, unfortunately, I had to sit a little far from the die hard fans.  Like baseball, football has a lot of die hard fans that will cheer and cheer and cheer.  I was a little disappointed, but that is probably due to the design of the stadium.  The fans aren’t close enough to the action.  It could also be because FC Tokyo is a perennial low ranked team within the league.   The second reason for the lack of sound from the home team could be from the loyal fans from the Kashima Antlers side.  Kashima has a longer history than FC Tokyo and they generally finish at the top of the J1 division, and they have won the most J1 titles.  Thus, they have a very loyal fan base.

Before going any further, a little J-league education is needed.  The J-league officially started in 1993 as a professional league and it has been evolving ever since.  Currently, there are 18 teams in the first division (J1) and 15 in the second division (J2).  Plans are underway to expand J2 to 18 teams.  There is also a third tier under a league name of the Japan Football League, however this league is a semi-pro league.  JFL teams will be promoted to J2 until J2 has reached it’s intended target.  The J-league itself runs 2 series where teams can switch between both series.  J1 is the top tier with the best teams.  Currently, the lowest two teams at the end of the year are sent to the second tier, while the top two teams of J2 are promoted to the J1 series.  The third ranked J2 and third lowest J1 team play a special match to decide if the teams will switch positions in the league or not.  Ultimately, since Tokyo Verdy has had poor form in recent years, FC Tokyo is the Tokyo favourite, even tough Tokyo Verdy has a longer and better history within the league.

The game itself was very good.  Before things begin, both teams take to the field for a little warm-up.  FC Tokyo came out and gave a type of bow and banzai gesture to the fans.  Kashima came out much later, but they didn’t do the same bow and banzai.  They just waved to their fans.  After the warm-up, FC Tokyo stole a Liverpool tradition and sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  I was a little disappointed because it’s such a strange song to sing for the Japanese people, and I thought a Japanese song or a lively song would be better.  After the FC Tokyo “Anthem”, the game got underway.  The first half was a decent game, but there were many slow points.  A few scoring opportunities, but nothing much.  The second half proved to be the better half.  All 5 goals in the game were scored in the second half.  FC Tokyo scored first, followed by a tie goal by Kashima.  FC Tokyo then scored 2 goals followed by another goal by Kashima.  There was a nail biting end to the game and 3 minutes of extra time.  Obviously the referee wanted a tie game because there were barely any stops to the game.  In the end, everyone was happy to see their team win.  Even on on the Kashima side, the fans were happy and still cheered loudly for their team.

So what are my final thoughts on the J-league, or at least the game that I watched?  It’s definitely worth my 2000 yen.  Should you go to a Baseball game or a Football game?  I will definitely say yes to both.  If you have the chance, go to them.  However, do note that unless you have an interest in Football, I don’t recommend it.  With Baseball, you don’t need to know the sport to enjoy the game.  With Football, I can’t say the same.  Personally, though, I think I’d enjoy Football more than Baseball.  I just enjoy the action.


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