Everybody makes mistakes. Why on earth don’t we talk about them though?
One of the things I enjoy most about league football is the way that everything is interrelated. What happens – or doesn’t (more on which shortly) – in one game can affect the fortunes of a team who are not even playing.
The end of the season is the most exciting and complex time to consider this relationship, with almost every game having a bearing on events elsewhere.
The final result of a match is the most obvious example of this – if Team A loses to Team B then Team C can stay top/escape relegation etc. – but there are countless other incidents that can also have knock-on effects.
I find the lack of attention paid to these other details very frustrating.
Take, for example, the varied goings-on in Shizuoka in Round 32.
Reysol weren’t the quickest out of the traps and just before half-time S-Pulse took the lead courtesy of a trademark piledriver free-kick from Eddy Bosnar.
S-Pulse came out at the start of the second half with their tails up and should have had the chance to establish a two-goal lead when Genki Omae was clearly brought down in the penalty box. The referee, Hiroyoshi Takayama, disagreed and waved play on.
Now, it is common knowledge that referees make mistakes. I am not saying that as a criticism but simply as a fact. Everybody – referees, players, coaches, you, even me (occasionally) – makes mistakes.
I have been told on numerous occasions that Japanese people are terrified of doing so, though, and that people would far sooner say or do nothing at all than risk being wrong. To point out somebody else’s error is thus also seen as hugely disrespectful.
I understand this way of thinking to an extent, but, really, it’s complete nonsense. To make a mistake is not a bad thing. In fact, getting things wrong is often the best way to learn.
Once, for example, I was speaking with a friend before a game at NACK5 Stadium. It was the middle of the hanami season and you could see the cherry blossoms behind the stands in Omiya Park. I pointed in their direction and instead of saying “Sakura kirei ne?” (“the cherry blossoms are pretty, huh?”) I said “Sakana kirei ne?” (“the fish are pretty, huh?”)
Needless to say, I am now clearer on the difference between fish and cherry blossoms.
Mr. Takayama’s error and the far-reaching consequences it could have had (if Reysol lost Grampus would have remained top), were not discussed after the game though. The highlights I saw didn’t even show the incident, and the only mention it got was when the commentators were discussing the game statistics and laughingly referred to Afshin Ghotbi’s declaration that his side should have had a penalty.
There was another incident in the game that was also completely ignored, when it really ought to have been highlighted.
Leandro Domingues, undoubtedly this year’s MVP and a wonderful player to watch, caused a fracas on the touchline by flinging himself to the ground and attempting to get S-Pulse’s Calvin Jong-a-pin sent off, suggesting he had been hit in the face.
From my vantage point on the halfway line it looked like nothing more than a regular coming together, and Leandro’s actions were disappointing.
Unsavoury – although, let’s be honest, fun-to-watch – incidents such as these are not given coverage either though, and I don’t understand why.
Leandro, who is far from a stranger to the darker arts of the game – I saw him avoid a blatant red card for an elbow earlier in the season, too – was not asked for his version of events after the match, instead being dealt the regular, formulaic questions about positions and formations.
Just because neither he nor Jong-a-pin were punished in the game doesn’t mean the event didn’t warrant discussion.
In a similar way to that in which one game affects another, what we do and don’t discuss now impacts on the continued development of the Japanese game.
Ignoring mistakes and gamesmanship and attempting to sweep them under the carpet doesn’t mean that they will just go away. In fact, the less coverage they get, the more likely it is that they will keep occurring.