Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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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
Odds and Ends from J1
elgola_ramos.jpgWednesday's ElGolazo front page: No big surprise, Ruy Ramos's debut as coach in the J-league (>>Click to read entry about this news). That's all very fine, but that "Raysol" I see?

Hmm. Well, a Kashiwa Reysol fan decided to give the paper a call and ask whether the spelling was done on purpose as a play on words or something. But his hope for some deeper meaning was dashed as the newspaper staff immediately apologized: "We're terribly sorry. It was an error." Lol. Well, it ain't the first time Japanese media have done the craziest things with the Roman alphabet, but this spelling error of a first division club name by a paper specializing in the J-league must be rather embarassing. And big and bold in the headline, too.

Well, here's some news coming from the J-league this week. Not related to the ElGolazo's content.

trinitaballstuck.jpgOita Trinita beg Funds from Prefectural Govt

Trinita FC have been struggling with finances for a while now, so it isn't a complete surprise. But it looks like a bit of an emergency, as along with the report that they will need to seriously review their management and earnings structure system they have asked the Oita prefecture to help them out of a bind by sending 200 million yen their way. They apparently need it by the 21st so that they can pay off bills.

There is supposed to be a plan to bring about better cooperation among the club, the prefecuture, and the local businesses -- the Trinity that is represented by the club name "Trinita". At least that is what the club has pointed to when they asked for the help. But the prefecture is avoiding giving a straight immediate response by saying they will need to look thoroughly at whether the trinity concept is realistically possible. Well, this is a bit late for hemming and hawing... the club has been in financial trouble for a number of years now.

On a lighter note, this photo on the left, of Trinita players during practice, shows how trying to get one stuck ball down ends with four balls stuck.... The photo comes from this fun >>Oita blogger; you can see the full series of stuck ball photos. Hey guys, wouldn't it be easier if someone just climbed up there? Nah, that would just make it too easy!

Sold Out

I've been hearing bits and pieces about various games coming up that have sold out their tickets. Usually in the J1, the average attendance is about 15,000. But some games are obviously more popular than others, and some clubs have obviously better attendance than others.

However, in two cases I've heard of recently, the clinching factor is the stadium. This weekend's game between Omiya Ardija and Jef Chiba at >>Omiya Koen is almost sold out. Why? Well, this is the second-to-last game that will be played at Omiya Koen football field, and I guess people want to make sure they get their last fix before it's over. Omiya Koen had been used by Ardija for a long time, and though it isn't as impressive as the newer state of the art Saitama stadium, it has an old comfy charm that locals have cherished.

This blogger >>Mimoza described the cozy atmosphere, saying that in the spring the sakura blossoms fluttered festively as you made your way in, and if you climbed the trees near the backstands or looked over the top wall of the baseball stadium next door, you could get a free peek into the football game.

We also have the debut game of Fukuda Arena, the new home of Jef Chiba. This first game between Jef and Yokohama F Marinos won't be until October 15th, but the tickets are all sold out already.. the first day they went on sale. I was quite ticked about this, as I had been planning on going and the schedule worked out. Oh well!! Will have to try and go another time!

Of course, the September 24th game between leaders Gamba Osaka and leaders-until-two-weeks-ago Kashima Antlers is completely sold out too. The game will be at Gamba's Banpaku stadium, which seats 23,000. This match-up will pretty much clinch (at least in the minds of the supporters) exactly who is boss... I'm biting my nails already...

And the Gamba factor is in full force this weekend, as their visit to the Kashiwa stadium against Reysol will be to a sell-out crowd as well.

There's more to this list, but I'll sum it up by saying that Urawa Reds and Niigata Albirex games ticket sales continue to reflect the force and dedication of their supporters.

Though it makes it difficult for those like me who like to just hop on the train and go to games without planning too much in advance... boo hoo.

Leandro Debut for Omiya?

The Squirrels supporters have even more to look forward to than a full crowd. There is speculation over whether new acquisition Leandro will make it to the pitch in this weekend's game against Jef. No one knows anything about him, beside the fact that he is young (20), rather good looking, and has a high-pitched shouting voice. Though it is too much to ask him to be stellar right off the bat, I am looking forward to hearing/seeing more about him in the weeks to come.

And even brighter news, as keyman Fujimoto is expected back from injury.

As for Jef, there is some good news that Austrian international forward Mario Haas is recovering nicely and was seen running at practice -- though he is not expected to play in this next game. He is in the top two of my favorite non-Japanese players in the J, and I have missed not seeing him on the pitch. He's been out since the end of July.
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