Archive for July, 2010

22
Jul
10

The pros and cons of the J.League exodus

Since the World Cup five J.League players have swapped Japan for Europe. While this undoubtedly demonstrates that the level of Japanese football is continuing to improve such migration could carry some negative consequences for the domestic league, and perhaps the players themselves.

A more in-depth analysis of this issue can be found here:

http://www.the-afc.com/en/features/29833-japanese-exodus-adding-value-or-selling-out

20
Jul
10

Former Japan captain backs compatriots

I had the chance to speak to former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto at the weekend and the Vissel Kobe defender is happy that so many Japanese players are choosing to further their careers in Europe.

His opinions on the subject can be found here http://www.the-afc.com/en/component/content/article/29757-overseas-players-to-boost-japan-football-miyamoto

20
Jul
10

Nagatomo off to Serie A

This weekend there was a full complement of J.League matches for the first time since the World Cup.

After FC Tokyo’s draw with Vissel Kobe, Yuto Nagatomo said his goodbyes ahead of his impending move to Cesena of Serie A and his comments can be found here.

http://www.the-afc.com/en/component/content/article/29756-nagatomo-bids-adieu-to-fc-tokyo

16
Jul
10

Kawashima and Tae-se on their way

Kawasaki Frontale goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and striker Jong Tae-se impressed for Japan and DPR Korea respectively at the World Cup, and their performances in South Africa have subsequently earned them both moves to Europe.

I was at Todorki Stadium for their farewell ceremony this week, and their comments can be read here:

http://www.the-afc.com/en/afc-asian-cup-news/29740-emotional-send-off-for-kawasaki-duo

02
Jul
10

The end of the road?

In the end Japan took it right to the wire, and were just a penalty shoot-out away from a dream quarter-final meeting with Spain. Yuichi Komano was the unlucky man who failed to convert from 12 yards, his spot-kick cannoning off the crossbar. Just six inches lower and who knows what might have been…?

Several people were asking why Komano – a full-back – rather than one of Japan’s more attack-minded players was taking a penalty in the first place, but I think this is an entirely redundant question.

Firstly, every single professional football player should be able to make what is essentially a 12-yard pass. The law of averages means that sometimes the ‘pass’ won’t make it to its intended target, but a player’s specialist position should not impact upon their ability to carry out such a simple skill. Of course, a short pass to a teammate in open play does not carry the same pressure as a penalty kick with a place in the last 8 of the World Cup at stake, and this provides the second justification for the Jubilo Iwata man stepping up to the plate.

The main difficulty with penalties is dealing with the psychological stress of the act, and some players just don’t fancy it. Komano must have raised his hand when Takeshi Okada asked for volunteers, and for this he should be commended. In fact, such spirit being shown by the ‘unsung’ members of the Japan squad is what endeared them to me during their time in South Africa.

Throughout the World Cup I had found myself looking forward to – and having my mood affected more greatly by – Japan’s games much more than those of my country, England. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was, but it sunk in during a conversation I had with a Japanese friend on Wednesday night.

We were discussing the successes and failures of our respective countries and the debate turned, as is so inevitably the wont of such exchanges, to the best English and Japanese players in South Africa. We concluded that it was impossible to name the best player from either squad – for very different reasons.

We couldn’t single out England’s star player because, well, they hadn’t had one. All of them had played well below the level expected of them – perhaps because they were jaded, not mentally prepared or just not as good as we had all thought them to be.

It was impossible for us to pick a Japanese player either though, because, to our minds, they had all excelled. Running through the team we could not recall a particularly bad mistake or performance by any of the players who had been given minutes on the pitch, with each of them doing all that was required of them.

As a result, I realised that I had found myself identifying with and willing the Japan team on more than England because I felt a closer affinity to them; as perennial underdogs, they were putting everything into every match and taking absolutely nothing for granted.

There is a close relationship between supporters and players in Japan and I was amazed, for example, to see so many fans watching the first time I attended a J.League training session. Also, the players greet their supporters before and after each match and, although, rather like the pre-match handshakes routine, this ritual loses some of its meaning owing to the fact it is obligatory, the players’ acknowledgement of those in the stands does create a far greater feeling of togetherness. Contrasting this to the ever-growing gap between Premier League players and their fans was one of the reasons I became attracted to Japanese football.

Of course, watching sport is a social activity, and I am sure that the fact I am living and working in Japan and watched all four of their matches with Japanese supporters had a big influence on my desire for them to achieve.

Being in the pub with these supporters I was able to see the closeness they felt to their team first-hand though, and I sensed that many of them truly felt that the players were actually representing them on the pitch.

This was never truer than when the dejected figure of Komano appeared on screen after Paraguay’s decisive penalty had been converted. Rather than booing, the entire pub burst into chants of his name; they knew how much he, and the whole team, had given and wanted to show their appreciation in the only way they knew how. It was a moving and fitting end to a wonderful tournament for Japan and one that I sincerely hope they are able to build upon in the future.

02
Jul
10

Japan return home to a heroes welcome

Yesterday the Japan national team arrived back home to a rapturous reception at Kansai Airport.

Depsite their disappointment at not making it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup everybody was in good spirits and comments from head coach Takeshi Okada and players Keisuke Honda, Yuichi Komano, Daisuke Matsui and Makoto Hasebe can be found at each of the following links.

http://www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/men-a-youth/fifa-world-cup-2010/29597-fans-hail-okadas-returning-heroes

http://www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/men-a-youth/fifa-world-cup-2010/29599-honda-dejected-at-exit

http://www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/men-a-youth/fifa-world-cup-2010/29601-komano-praises-teammates-for-support

http://www.the-afc.com/en/tournaments/men-a-youth/fifa-world-cup-2010/29603-hasebe-wants-quality-time-with-okada

02
Jul
10

Guardian blog on Asian Football

I arrived home at 7am after Japan defeated Denmark to ensure their progression to the last 16 of this year’s World Cup and, in a pique of sleep-deprived righteous indignation, pitched an article to the Guardian about the underestimation of Asian football. It seems I should work at these unsociable hours more often as they liked it and published it here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/jun/27/world-cup-2010-japan-paraguay-asia

While the team has sadly now exited the competition, the content of this blog is still very relevant and I hope that Japan’s performances in South Africa can go some way to addresing the representation of Asian football around the world.




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