Saturday, May 14, 2005


Kisama ga kyuukyuusha de kitaku suru zo (don't ask me if that made any sense)

So, Friday 13th brought me mixed fortunes: on the minus side, I wasn't able to secure the flight I wanted at the travel agents (for England in July)- I'm on a waiting list for Thai Airlines, which will mean a bastard-ass long flight. Furthermore, I completely forgot that I was supposed to be teaching a private student in the evening. Damn it!

On the plus side, I got my NOVA pay, PLUS I landed free tickets to todays big match: Cerezo Osaka vs Gamba Osaka!- my first J-league game!

This was a totally hot proposition: glorious weather and the venue, Nagai, was one of the World Cup stadiums. Andrew and I headed down early and took seats next to the away fans' part. A few things are worth explaining at this point:

1. I was rooting for Gamba as they are Panasonic's team and Panasonic employ the majority of my students. Furthermore, they don't play in pink, which Cerezo do. When I mention this to my students, they usually nod sagely and tell me it's because it's the colour of cherry blossom. This doesn't seem like a particularly strong case for grown men to parade around in pink shirts to me; I guess it must be a Japanese thing.

2. Although there was an "away" section, Gamba fans were allowed to go pretty much anywhere in the ground. Japanese supporters are much more easy going than their European counterparts. The only reason why there was an away section, I think, was to guarantee a decent-sized body of Gamba fans together and give them a chance to generate a bit of an atmosphere. Which they duly did.

3. The whole thing was like a parody of football, from the ineptitude on the pitch, to the various bits of right-wing paraphenalia being blithely waved about by completely benign Japanese supporters. We saw a flag marked "Real Osaka Ultras," (click here to find out why Ultras are not generally a good thing.) We saw the Saint George's cross, although no chorus of "No surrender," thankfully. We saw an Italian flag (never good) and even a confedarates flag, which nearly caused Andrew a seizure.

On to the match.

Cerezo looked the more promising team early on, spread the ball wide a lot, kept possession pretty well and were probably a bit disappointed when Gamba carved through the centre of their defence to scrape the ball home for an early lead. Fortunately, Gamba had a fairly typical Japanese goalie (ie- cack) and he contrived to let one through his near post from outside the area within a few minutes of the opener. Gamba regained the lead with what looked like quite a good goal, except that I wasn't really paying attention. 2-1 at half time.

The Nagai stadium, by the way, was very nice.

The second half saw Gamba under heavy pressure, before they sliced open the Cerezo defence on the counter attack, the ball was played across the face of the goal, leaving the striker able to turn it into an empty net to put the game beyond doubt.

Gamba then conceded within 30 seconds of the restart to put the game back in doubt.

After this shocking sloppiness by my adopted team, the game lost its lustre somewhat. Panasonic's finest added a fourth in injury time after the ball had pinged around the Cerezo area for what seemed like an eternity. The referee decided he'd seen enough and blew his whistle for full time. The players bowed a bit and everyone left.

And, as I was on my way home from yakiniku, some old geezer latched onto me and offered me the intimate aquaintance of a young lady for 10,000 yen (about 50 quid.) I said no.

After all, the best things in life are free.

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