Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…
There is no shortage of activity at this time of year as J.League clubs do their best to make sure everything is in place for a successful season.
New coaches and players are arriving, sponsors are being wooed, new kits and merchandise are being released in order to tempt fans to part with their hard-earned cash, and pre-season training camps are underway to ensure players are in tip-top condition come the big kick off.
Alongside these vital preparations, however, one of the most bizarre and pointless processes also takes place. Year in, year out it is for some reason assumed necessary for clubs to devise a slogan.
“Omiya Kyoutsu” (Omiya United Front) (Omiya Ardija), “One team, one mission. Forward!” (Shimizu S-Pulse), “Unlimited” (Nagoya Grampus); what purpose do any of these phrases actually serve?
Business-speak and brand recognition are of course becoming increasingly intertwined with the world of football, but even in the uber-corporate world of the Premier League there is no such thing as a club catchphrase.
Many clubs do have mottos, but these were decided upon when the teams were established, have remained in place ever since, and are usually in an ancient language (normally Latin) meaning very few people actually know what they mean.
The J.League slogans, however, have something, well, very ‘Japanese’ about them. Words so often take precedence over actions here, and whether it be responding to everything with hai (yes) or wakarimashita (understood) when things are not, in fact, affirmative or understood, or insisting eigo benkyou shitai na…! (I really want to study English!) when there is no intention or desire to actually do so, the country is full of empty expressions.
The J1 additions to these pointless phrases this year can be loosely divided into three categories: those that are essentially saying “let’s do our best!”; those whose clubs couldn’t be arsed; and those trying to be a bit too clever – and making absolutely no sense in the process.
Let us consider, for example, the offerings of Jubilo Iwata, Sagan Tosu and Yokohama F.Marinos.
Jubilo were so keen to express their desire to do well they didn’t only come up with “Road to Champion 2013” but also felt compelled to declare “2013 Concentration of Energy” as their ‘Team Catchphrase’. Whatever that is. Tosu, meanwhile, have given the world the quite spectacular “Choufunjin” which I take delight in translating as “Super Impetuous Dash Forward”. Marinos almost opted to stick with 2012’s redundant “All For Win”, before adding “– Realize – “ at the end. No, I’m not sure either.
Ventforet Kofu, FC Tokyo and Sanfrecce Hiroshima apparently agree that this is all a waste of everybody’s time and have just recycled last year’s slogans: “Move”, “We Fight Together 2013” and “C.O.A Football”.
Ok, Tokyo’s “collective, offensive and attractive” gem does sound more like a checklist of things to do than a rallying battle cry, but at least they stuck with what they had and are getting their money’s worth.
Some clubs, though, just can’t resist the urge to try and be clever. Shonan Bellmare have, alongside a truly appalling Clip-Art-esque graphic, opted for “Shuuyaku”. It’s not easy to clearly define this in English, but it seems to be something to do with kicking and dancing. Yep.
Vegalta Sendai’s “Vision” seems simple enough until you become embroiled in the connotations of the red highlighted ‘s’ in the middle – which is alleged to represent the ‘supporters’ and ‘strong team’. And ‘Sendai’, obviously.
Kawasaki Frontale’s “Wing” is probably the worst top-flight example. ‘Win’ signifies, well, to win, while the ‘ing’ part supposedly suggests continuity. So to keep winning, I assume. But if that’s the case then why not just go with “Winning”?
An offering from J2 is by far the worst, though, with Tokyo Verdy having attempted to define themselves thusly: “Tokyo Glocal Standard”.
Bambi on ice and Keisuke Iwashita tackles are less clumsy than this horrific fusion of “global” and “local”, particularly when applied to Verdy, a club desperately devoid of any consistency or identity on or off the pitch.
Clubs would be far better served to focus on other areas of running a professional football club than wasting their time, energy and money creating these useless, cringe-inducing epithets – for their sakes as well as ours.