Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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A Question for France ligue watchers
I've been watching France Ligue highlights, and noticed that the referees wear headsets -- does anyone know what that's for? Is that to communicate with the linesmen?

Just wondering...haven't seen that in any other league.
NT 2006
For those of you who are wondering what the JFA has planned for the national team during the preparationg months next year, here is some news.

There was an announcement today, that Japan and Germany will play a friendly right before the World Cup starts.

EEEK.

Germany? As in the hosts? Right before the Cup starts?

Yes.

I don't know which is better -- playing a middle-of-the-range team and using that as an opportunity for Japan to iron out last minute issues. Or playing a thunderous team like Germany, and hosts no less....and if we fall completely flat on our faces, is that good for the team ahead of the Cup? And if we do well, is that peaking too soon? Of course, if we end up in the same group as Germany in December's draw, the whole thing will be cancelled. Ending up in the same group as Germany isn't that yummy a prospect either. Hmmm. What do you think?

ronmel_dog.jpgWe may need the services of Ronmel (I'm not sure if that's the right spelling), the unofficial national team dog -- he belongs to one of the top brass at the JFA (head of public relations), and has gotten the reputation (from back in the Troussier days) for bringing good luck to the national team whenever he attends pre-game practices. Though he is usually not allowed to actual games/stadia, he did get to "sneak" in in this past game against Honduras, where Japan came back after being 2 goals down to win 5-4. Ronmel is well-known in the inner sanctum, and has been given a number of thankful pats on the head from Zico. Will they take him to Germany?

Okay, back to the topic... there is some talk coming from the JFA that Japan will head to the United States for a training camp in February. There, they hope to play some friendlies with South American teams -- since we are still struggling against the South American style of football. It could end up that the U.S. plan will come to nothing, and change to South America, or maybe Europe. Or maybe the whole plan will be nixed if the scheduling becomes a problem. But with so few chances to play together, I really hope something gets planned.

The National Team will first go through their domestic boot camp in January, though, as usual. Here, all the players are made to run run run, and when they are done, run some more. But the February camp will be a great opportunity for the team to their game legs back after their break from the league.

The only problem is that the European-basec players will not be called -- the respective clubs are not happy about having the players (like Nakamura, et al) travel distances for friendlies, so the JFA is compromising. These Europe boys will be called for the games against Latvia and the Ukraine, but will not be called for most of the games that require long travel.

Speaking of the JFA, I will head over there to the JFA House tomorrow, to take a look around and do some shopping for friends (they have a store and a rather interesting football museum I hear). I've never been (blasphemous!), so I figure I might duck in and take a look. Will take loads of photos of exhibits and post on this blog.

If you have a request for me to take photos of certain things, or watch out for certain things, please leave a comment before tomorrow afternoon Japan time!
Tids and Bits
Having trouble finding ample time to do any in-depth research on the week's Japan football news, but here are a few items that caught my eye:

FC Tokyo Ishikawa to Operate
ishikawa_9.20.05.jpgWe all were extremely worried about Lucas's head injury this past weekend during the Tokyo/Marinos game. The entire ordeal must have been a tremendous psychological shock to the team. Jean in tears with a bleeding head, Lucas lying dazed on the ground.

So it was an even greater disappointment to hear (as an FC Tokyo fan as well as a fan of the league) that Nao Ishikawa is also out. Just minutes before the Lucas/Jean collision, Nao went off the pitch when something happened to his knee/leg during play. The doctors have concluded that it is an injury to his right knee ligament, and he will need to operate. The surgery is scheduled for the beginning of October.

He has had a relatively unlucky year, not being able to find his groove. It is doubly painful to watch, as he is one of the sweetest personalities in the league. Everyone was really looking forward to see him lead the J-East attack in next month's Jomo All Stars game (he was MVP last year). Now he will be out of play for an unknown period of time. From what I could find out about these injuries, it looks ilke it might take him more than several months. Sniff!! I am truly disappointed, not just for us fans who were looking forward to seeing him play but also for him -- despite the awful news, he has been putting up a brave and cheerful face as he has done throughout his career (Pic of him today, at an interview).

Vissel Players On the Streets

Despite changing managers twice in the league season so far, Vissel Kobe has been finding it difficult to free themselves of bottom place in the rankings. It didn't help that their new captain Atsu Miura has been suffering from injuries to both achilles and has been unable to play for weeks.

It's not surprising that the club have had trouble keeping their fans -- and even more difficultly getting people to attend. So, the players hit the streets themselves, in an unusual marketing attempt to call out for people to attend the next game against Verdy. Along with about 30 staff workers and a bunch of supporters, about six players from the team went out on the streets and handed out fliers to people walking by in a Kobe market district. How's that for hands on?

Nelsinho No More

I mentioned it briefly during my round 24 summary, but it is quite disappointing to hear we won't be seeing Nagoya Grampus manager Nelsinho in the J-league anymore. He was let go this weekend, as a result of his team's performance this season.

Most supporters do feel the decision could not be helped (they do want to avoid any threat of relegation, afterall), but they did feel that the timing for the sacking was bad. There are only 10 games left in the season, and the supporters are worried about the psychological impact on the players to lose their manager at such a crucial time.

Part of Nelsinho's lack of success has been blamed on the fact that Nagoya as a club have not been able to solidify exactly what kind of club they want to be. Their personality was unclear, and the lack of vision led to problems getting a fitting team together in the off-season. They spent a lot of money on players -- Nagoya has the two most highly paid Japanese players in the league in Narazaki and Fujita. And they have beloved veterans like Akita, technically gifted ones like Nakamura, as well as spunky up and comers like Honda. Some supporters ay that Nelsinho was trying things that were too sophisticated for the team to do suddenly; some say he wasn't able to properly analyze opponents and come up with good strategies against different teams.

Don't Make me Blush

tsune_photobook.jpgClick photo to enlarge. For those of you who do not live in Japan, it may come as a surprise that the footballer most popular among women in Japan is Japan national team captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto. Not Hide Nakata.

Well, it may depend on the sample you poll, but those that I have seen this year in various sports mags and tv programs show Miyamoto has clinched the number 1 spot. So it isn't entirely surprising that he is coming out with this Book of Photographs -- in Japan these types of photographic books are very common, and all types of famous people publish one, from comedians and musicians to idols, singers, athletes... pretty much anyone. And you don't have to be drop-dead gorgeous for these to sell. Just interesting with people who are willing to shell out Yen 3,500.

In Miyamoto's case, or "Tsune-sama" as the joke goes now, it is a mix of both -- the Gamba Osaka defender is popular among all ranges of women, but in particular among the 20-30-something group. People like that he is not only relatively attractive in the physical sense, but also his intellectual personality, his leadership at both club and national team, his fashion sense, and the degree of thought and eloquence he puts into his interviews. For this age group, I guess his overall polish makes him quite the hottie. [On a sidenote, Takashi Fukunishi is known to be quite popluar with the middle-aged ladies set! Though recently he is gaining in popularity over various age groups.]

A Break for Hayuma

Hayuma Tanaka, who got into a serious car accident a couple weeks ago, has been lucky. The elderly man he hit on September 5th was knocked around but nothing immediately threatening to his life. The police investigation came up with no blame for Tanaka -- the injured man apparently crossed the street where there was no pedestrian crossing and was unlucky not to be seen by Tanaka until it was too late. Not only that, Tanaka was initially determined to stay out of games until the man fully recovered -- but strong support from the injured man and his family convinced Marinos to let Hayuma back at the clubhouse and join in regular training.

Tanaka is also one player I really like as a person, and I had been really worried about the ramifications of this accident. Some people have said that the "punishment" to Tanaka was too little, that he should have been given more. But considering we all get into accidents no matter how careful we try to be -- and in this case it wasn't as if he was drinking or talking on the phone,etc. -- I think it's okay. Tanaka has expressed tremendous regret/remorse over the incident.
Celtic 1-0 Hibernian w/video
shun9.18.05.jpg☆ADDED NEW: >>Right-Click and download for a Shunsuke Highlights clip Includes clip of another free kick, and Shunsuke's attempt at "roulette", which was not available in the two links below.

Shunsuke Nakamura started against Celtic's away game against Hibernian. Looking rather heavy in their new all-black away kits, see pic (once you get used to those green and white stripes, all-black is very strange!), the Celtic side seemed to be coming together with good passing and cohesion.

The game ended 1-0, a goal from Petrov -- he ran up and received a superbly timed through pass from Nakamura.

>>Right-click and download goal clip

>>Right-click and download second half Nakamura free kick attempt video clip

I didn't watch the game, but I hear Hibernian got their rhythm in the second half and put on quite an attack as well. Forced Nakamura to retreat and support the defense.... or was he losing steam? or hurt?
Mallorca 5-2 Real Sociedad w/ video
Yoshito Okubo subbed in the second half in Mallorca's game against Real Sociedad Sunday. The team got a nice 5-2 victory after trailing in the beginning. Okubo assisted Arango's second goal (the team's third), with a targeted cross (short corner) from the right. He was also involved in the fifth goal when he tried to twirl and shoot as the goalie suppressed the ball... the ball dropped to the left and was shoved in by Choutos.

>>Right-click and download video of third goal Okubo is the one who sends in the cross.

>>Right-click and download video of fifth goal Okubo is the one in the middle of the goal area.
Le Mans 2-1 Sochaux w/ video
matsui_sochaux.jpg Le Mans played Sochaux this Saturday, and won 2-1. Daisuke Matsui started again, and he assisted Hautcoeur's goal with a great cross after doing a little tricky dribbling.

>>Right-click and download assist-goal scene clip

>>Right-click and download the second goal by Tulio De Melo

Petits little (or is that redundant?) Le Mans are now in 2nd Place after the mighty Lyon.
J1 Round 24: The Highs and Lows
ambulance9.17.05.jpgOh what a bloody mess

Yokohama F Marinos 0-0 FC Tokyo

It was a chilling end for those 36,000 present at Yokohama's Nissan Stadium Saturday night. As 90 minutes of a stressful goalless draw entered into stoppage time, FC Tokyo saw a series of accidents that started with ace Naohiro Ishikawa being carried off on a stretcher unable to walk and culiminating with a head collision between their two beloved Brazilians, defender Jean and forward Lucas.

The immediate concern of everyone in the stadium focused on the blood pouring down Jean's cut forehead. But it was Lucas, who had initially picked himself up without evident damage, that was the one to collapse seconds later. Worried doctors objected to moving the unresponsive player and sent for the ambulance as they prepared an IV drip. All the doctors available, whether from Marinos or Tokyo, were all out there.

The wait for the ambulance was quite unbearable -- and really, should it have taken that long? Meanwhile, all the players were standing around trying to figure out what they could do. Jean, who was the one who collided with Lucas and had a blood-streaked jersey on, was in tears at seeing doctors trying to get a response out of his buddy; Sasa took off his shirt and was using it to fan Lucas's body.

Ugh. The entire tension-filled ordeal took about twenty minutes. By the time the paramedics had driven Lucas off, no one on the pitch was in the mood to resume the game. The referee decided to skip the remaining three minutes and call it a night. This was the first emergency situation of the J-league season. It was really quite stunning to have to watch all that -- like you weren't sure how bad things were, and practically all twenty-odd players were creating this mass huddle around Lucas's body, and all you knew was something was not peachy.

As for the game...um, let's see.

The home side initially set out to use long balls to the front sides and circumnavigate the energetic midfield pressure of their visitors. Though Marinos' Okada had switched his most dependable defender, international Yuji Nakazawa, to the left in order to give added support to the more vulnerable side, it was this side where Tokyo found their first real chance at goal. Norio Suzuki broke through the right at 16 minutes and sent a fast grounder in to an open Mitsuhiro Toda. The quick reflexes of Yokohama's Daisuke Oku denied.

The long ball strategy allowed the League Champs to maintain a populated and stable defense, and finally made some headway in the 31st minute when Gral leapt up to meet a superb long feed from Masahiro Ohashi. The recent transfer from Jubilo Iwata, however, did not get the right angle on impact; the ball dropped horizontally and was carefully cleared by Jean.

The visitors had hoped to force their opponents to give up the ball with persistent checks and movement. Though they were able to intercept time and time again, the Nabisco Champs were unable to time their characteristic vertical bursts effectively and also seemed to have some problems with accuracy on the passes.

The second half opened up to a sharper Yokohama. Instead of relying heavily on long feeds, they players made attempts to build the play through concentrated passing. Four minutes into the half, a lovely set of hand offs from right to left just outside the box allowed Dutra to send in a perfectly placed cross to the far post. A waiting Gral shoved the ball to center, but Jean again cleared from inside the congestion.

With the score stagnating, both managers opted to inject more energy into the attack. New acquisition Sasa from Paraguay for Tokyo and Norihisa Shimizu for Yokohama.

The home side domination of the initial twenty minutes began to slip away as FC Tokyo attempted to capitalize off several successful interceptions. Though their surge towards the goal and resulting attempts at setting up proper finishes posed a dangerous period, the defense held.

A few minutes later, with Tokyo still hanging on to their rhythm, a goal kick from Yoichi Doi gave Toda entry past the defenders. His flicked heel lift followed by a careful loop shot may have been the biggest opportunity seen by either side this night. However, his aim was not careful enough, and the ball fell innocuously on top of the netting.

Though careful against the counter, neither side gave up on their attack. Both teams used the sides well and aimed to get crosses in. It was a heated second half, and the stoppage time of 5 minutes may have been just enough to see one team through in a dramatic last minute victory. But it was a different kind of drama that awaited, and the foremost thought on most players' minds as they shuffled off the pitch was not the 0-0 score but the health of their fellow footballer.

Two hours after the game, FC Tokyo released information that Lucas had started to regain consciousness. The doctors diagnosed a sprained neck and a severe concussion. This afternoon, Lucas was released by the hospital into the care of his club physicians.

A Dizzying Afternoon at Kashima

Kashima Antlers 4-0 Vissel Kobe

The Antlers welcomed the visitors yesterday with an adjusted new lineup. If Vissel manager Pavel was expecting the usual faces in the usual places, he must have been surprised to see how Kashima manager Cerezo turned things around. ...continues, click below
Video: Hide's Bolton Debut & Assist
It's so late, but I wanted to put this link up before I crashed. Hide Nakata made his Bolton debut in the UEFA Cup game against Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Though he was not able to repeat his debut performance in Italy with goals, he did assert himself to some degree with physical toughness and offense-focused attitude -- and an assist.

The game was tied at 90 minutes, but Hide's neat little backwards header to Borgetti (Mexican internationl, who we saw this summer when Japan played the elegant central american team at the Confederations Cup) was enough for a winning goal.

>>Click here for the download link

Link is thanks to Nippon Ganbare website -- the website is coming together very nicely, and the forum has a number of consistent visitors.
Araujo poised to pass Mboma
araujo.jpgGamba Osaka forward Araujo needs only one goal to catch up to legendary Mboma's Gamba season goal record of 25, set in 1997. But a target of a mere 25 goals is too low for the currently unstoppable 28 year old. His first season in the J was spent at Shimizu S-Pulse, but whether it was the culture shock or the inability to fit with the S-Pulse style, he was unable to produce more than 10 goals in 36 games (Cups included).

The Gamba offensive lineup has made it that much easier for Araujo to shine. With teammates like Oguro, Fernandinho, Futagawa, and Endo setting up frightening displays of pass-style and counter-style attacks, this Brazilian "helper" has been able to score two or more goals each in 7 games.

"I am aiming at the very least for 30 goals; but I'd really like to surpass the current J-league record," said the usually quiet and serious striker. This current J-league record of 36 was set by Jubilo Iwata veteran Masashi "Gon" Nakayama back in 1998.

Surprisingly, despite his undeniable performance this season, the low profile lefty was not among those chosen for the upcoming All-Stars game. Instead, his teammate Masashi Oguro who debuted with the national side this year has grabbed those honors. It could be that fans prefer to see their Japanese stars play together with all the excitement of the World Cup qualifiers this year. However, you won't find a football fan in Japan who will deny Araujo is doing his job and then some. He also holds the current lead with assists as well.

The J welcomes many new transfers from abroad each year -- many of whom are forwards. The new acquisition to get the most media attention at the start of this season was Tokyo Verdy's Washington -- people here immediately took to his gentleman-like attitude and humble spirit. And this year we said a sudden good-bye to the crowd-inspiring personality of impish Urawa Reds' Emerson. But there are many others who have been showing quality, just not so many goals -- like Jef Chiba's Mario Haas, Kashima Antlers' Alex Mineiro, Sanfrecce Hiroshima's Gauvao, Kawasaki Frontale's Juninho, and the list goes on.

But from the local standpoint, the expectations are on Japanese players to show us good finishing -- Oguro was ahead for a while, but was soon left in the dust by Arujo. Urawa Reds fans hope to see an explosion of goals from Tatsuya Tanaka now that he is almost recovered from his back injury. People at Jubilo Iwata are excited to see young Robert Cullen taking to the spotlight well with a number of spirited runs and goals. And youth player Shunsuke Maeda is always a scary player to sub in towards the end of the game. Lots of injuries in the first half of the season forced the managers to play younger people, and I think it's brought about some valuable discoveries, especially at clubs like Yokohama Marinos and Jubilo.

But now with a 9 goal lead over second place Washington, Araujo may be impossible to overtake. Still, with eleven games remaining, who knows?
Japan v Honduras Highlights Video
I finally found one. For those of you still interested in seeing the highlights video from the Japan versus Honduras friendly last week, this one definitely works. Here it is:

>>Right-Click and Download highlights video clip
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