The bond between Vegalta Sendai and their fans strengthened after the March 11th earthquake, inspiring an Englishman to make a documentary…
On the bus on the way to Antlers-Vegalta the other week I came across the “Football, Take Me Home” project online. An Englishman, it transpired, had been inspired to make a movie about the reaction of Vegalta Sendai – and in particular their fans – to the tragedy of March 11th, 2011.
After watching the trailer and reading the brief on the website I got in touch with the director Douglas Hurcombe and a couple of days later – fittingly on the second anniversary of the disaster – we had a chat about the documentary, what inspired it and what he hopes it will achieve.
The objectives, he explained, were twofold: firstly it was to keep the spotlight on the region affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and secondly to demonstrate to the world of football that strong links between clubs and their fans were still possible in the modern era of football as big business.
“Individually I could make a donation but if I told the story I could actually do something that might help or actually change or influence people’s thinking over a wider scale,” the Tottenham Hotspur fan said. “And it’s just such an incredible story.”
Currently the project is raising funds through the ‘Kickstarter’ program, with Hurcombe keen not to let any big investors interfere with the narrative.
“We want to keep complete control over where this story goes. So our way of doing that in the short term was to turn to the fans – was to try and say, “if the fans get involved then it’s good because it’s a fan’s film.””
Fans are a central focus of the documentary, and as a regular match-goer at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane the 45-year-old agrees that being at the stadium provides a form of escape.
“Absolutely. One hundred percent. It’s not the reason [Vegalta fans] went to the game but I think it’s one of the things about the experience of going to football that we love.
“We can hang in this kind of neutral space for a while without taking the woes of the world with us. And I think especially with the Japanese football culture that sits particularly well because you’re talking about a society which does have an awful lot of pressure on it; very high suicide rate, very high expectations […] very stylised ways of doing things.
“We asked one of the supporters that we interviewed when we were out in November, “do you think that just for that couple of hours at [the first game after the disaster, against Kawasaki Frontale] none of it existed?“ and he was like, “totally, it had all gone away, it was like it hadn’t happened, just for a moment we didn’t have to think about it”.
As well as looking close-up at the bonds that exist between individual fans and their club Hurcombe also wants to consider the phenomenon on a wider scale.
“On an international level I think football’s going through a really weird time where clubs are having to make these decisions about community, about what community means to them,” he told me.
“I think what the experience of Sendai has shown is that there is a third way, you don’t have to have an oligarch come and buy you out, you don’t have to suddenly shift your team to another part of the world to get a fanbase, that it is possible to connect with a community and use the power of that to the benefit of both.
“To me it’s sharing the story globally – one because it brings recognition and it might bring some money in, and it might help in some kind of way in terms of investment in the city or making people think that it’s a great place to go and visit or that they want to experience the atmosphere or something like that, but as well it’s about bringing that message to the global football family, it’s that you do have much more power than you think. Use it. Do something with it. It doesn’t have to take an earthquake to make that happen.”
For more information on “Football, Take Me Home”, please do visit http://www.vegaltamovie.com or follow @FootballTMH on Twitter