Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
2005-11<<12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031>>2006-01 ←Navigate Entries with This Calendar
Tsubasa and Misaki
I have introduced a couple "Captain Tsubasa" entries this year, and some of you may wonder "what the hell?" In all honesty, I have never read a Captain Tsubasa comic. But I remember my younger brother did when he was in grade school. He bought all the comics, he even filled pages of notebooks with his own attempts at drawing Tsubasa characters. And most of all, it influenced him to choose football as his afterschool sports of choice. It was a tremendous cultural phenomenon back in those days among Japanese children.

You must remember, this was all back when Japan didn't even have a very clear idea of football, before the J-league, before we as a country could even dream of assuming to participate in the World Cup.

Many people say that had it not been for Captain Tsubasa, we may have not been able to culminate enough interest to launch the J-league to begin with, and thus would not have had the opportunity to host the World Cup as quickly. It may be hyperbole, but even so it shows that the comic had a tremendous influence over football-consciousness in Japan... not as a reality perhaps, but as an ideal. The fantastic technique, the miracle plays, the overarching themes of loyalty and friendship, teamwork, sportsmanship, and hope even as underdogs and even when everything else was working against them. >>Here's one fan site

shinji_tsubasa.jpgI mentioned in earlier entries, a few instances of where the fantasy world of Tsubasa intersected with the real world of football. The first time, it was a brief aside, mentioning that the creator of the comic, when asked a few years ago, who he imagines is the closest to fitting into the Tsubasa character. He said it was Shinji Ono (pictured sleeping next to his dog Chocolat in a Tsubasa tee) if he played at Barcelona. This was a while ago, so I'm not sure if he still would answer in the same way.

The second time was to show how Captain Tsubasa has successfully gotten exported worldwide. The France league's Grenoble football team mascot is based on the Captain Tsubasa comic characters, and I also mentioned that various famous European players (like Zidane and I think Totti) have shared they were influenced by Tsubasa as children.

In a recent interview, Daisuke Matsui said that his ideal is still defined by the limitless sense of inspiration and creativity displayed in the Tsubasa comics. And when I saw a very old photo of Japan goalkeeper Narazaki as a young boy, he was dressed in the black long-legged long-sleeved outfit with the cap, just like Tsubasa goalkeeper Wakabayashi -- despite the mid-summer heat (as did my brother, who was the GK at his school when he was a boy, and I used to tease him about copying a comic character). Wakabayashi was by far the "coolest" (kakko-ii) member of the team... The "golden midfield" that we know in today's Japan NT, players like Nakata et al are considered the generation of Japanese footballers who read the comics in its heyday and grew up to lead our national team.

We are continuing to see the aftereffects. Those same kids who grew up reading the comics til the pages were worn have now grown up into young mothers and fathers. But it was still a little suprising to see the first names "Tsubasa" and "Misaki" among the list of the real life current U-14 National team. The U-14 is in Korea right now training and playing a few local friendlies.

In the comics, the full name was Tsubasa Ohzora (Tsubasa means "wings" and Ohzora means "big/great sky"). It is a rare name to see in real life, and I would say that anyone who names their kids Tsubasa is aware of its immediate correlation with the comic character. The character Misaki's full name is Taro Misaki, but in the comics he went as "Misaki", his last name. And here again, it is quite pointed to name your boy Misaki as a first name. You almost can't help but immediately connect it to the comics. He was known as the character with a pure and straight nature, so perhaps the hope was that their baby boy would grow up to have the same kind of purity and openness of heart.


With such names, the two actual boys in question, Tsubasa Yamasaki and Misaki Uemura (both born in 1991), must get a lot of curious comic-related questions or teasing. And the fact that there are two players now on the U-14 team with the Captain Tsubasa-related names is probably what is most interesting. It does make one expect to see amazing plays and shots, the kind you only see in the...well, world of comics. They obviously show promise, otherwise they would not have been chosen as part of the JFA Elite Development Program. But they are two of twenty, so I guess the important thing is for all these kids to get as much opportunity to play and learn.

As a sidenote, there is also a player on the same U14 team called "Atomu" (or "Atom")... as in the manga Tetsuwan Atom (you might know it as Mighty Atom or Astro Boy), another extremely popular manga that dominated the tv ratings from the 50s. >>Click to see website

Come to think of it, people name their kids after all types of things/people. I heard that recently a Scottish couple, a Celtic fan, named their newborn son "Shunsuke" (boy, that little boy is headed for some awkward moments introducing himself). So I guess anything goes. (Though a few years ago I remember some parents in Japan wanted to name their boy "Akuma", meaning devil, and the government wouldn't allow it...)
J-league Awards
The J-league Awards Ceremony took place Tuesday in Yokohama. >>Click to see previous entry that lists all the nominees.

MVP Award: Araujo (Gamba Osaka)
Top Scorer: Araujo
>>Click to see video of Araujo accepting his award

(Araujo in tux accepting his awards; click photo below to go to J-league site)

Best Newcomer: Robert Cullen (Jubilo Iwata)
>>Click to see Cullen accepting award

Best Eleven:

GK: Motohiro Yoshida (Cerezo Osaka)
DF: Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Urawa Reds)
DF: Stoyanov (Jef Chiba)
DF: Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F Marinos)
MF: Mitsuo Ogasawara (Kashima Antlers)
MF: Yuki Abe (Jef Chiba)
MF: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka)
MF: Fernandinho (Gamba Osaka)
MF: Tatsuya Furuhashi (Cerezo Osaka)
FW: Hisato Sato (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
FW: Araujo (Gamba Osaka)

Individual Fairplay Award: Teruyuki Moniwa (FC Tokyo) & Masashi Oguro (Gamba Osaka)
>>Click to see Moniwa accepting award

Best Manager: Akira Nishino (Gamba Osaka) >>Click to see acceptance speech

Manager Special Recognition: Ivica Osim (Jef Chiba) & Shinji Kobayashi (Cerezo Osaka) >>Click to see Kobayashi acceptance speech

Recognition of Services to the J-league: Leslie Mottram (Chief Referee Instructor) & Bismark >>Click to see acceptance speeches

JLeague Best Pitch: Saitama Stadium 2002

Join Award: To the supporters of the J-league who banded together and organized a nationwide effort to collect donations to pay for Baby Ayaka (>>Click to see website) to fly to the United States and get an organ transplant. They collected about US$895,000, and Baby Ayaka has now safely undergone surgery and is currently under ICU care.
Email Change Again!
Very very very sorry to all for the inconvenience and confusion, but my last attempt to shake off the problems I've had with my email (>>read what's been going on) have followed me to the new email address I created previously with goo. Though it seemed to have solved the problem for a number of people, it still was having problems with some, so now I am changing my email address yet again. This time, I have checked and double checked, and hopefully it will work for everyone.

I took Otto's suggestion to use gmail, so here it is (thanks Otto!):

New Email: depflight(at)gmail(dot)com

Again, very sorry for all this, but hope you understand.
Weekend in Europe
A very quick update of highlights from our players in Europe this weekend.

Celtic 1-1 Inverness

The current SPL leaders took a trip to the land of Loch Ness for their encounter with the difficult Inverness on Sunday. Inverness have clipped at many of the strong teams this season, and from what I gather it was a lucky 1 point for Celtic. A poor performance from Celtic allowed the home side the first goal, but an equalizer from Hartson kept things even until the end. There seemed to be a lot of instability in the defense, causing the team to lose balance. Despite what I said earlier in a previous comment about the team's ability to unite under difficult circumstances, it sounds like this is too much like shooting yourself in the foot. For a possession team like Celtic, it is important to stabilize the defense, and Keane's insertion into the squad seems to be the hot topic of discussion.

I was concerned about the back injury to Shunsuke Nakamura, but he started and played the full 90 mins.

Heracles 1-1 Utrecht

Sota Hirayama chipped in a crucial equalizer in this game against Utrecht. The GK dived to deflect a shot, and Hirayama was in the position to pick up the loose ball and chip it over the goalie right at the right post. It is his 4th goal of the season. It was the second game that he started, and played the full 90 mins. He was selected MOM.

Hamburg SV 1-1 Werder Bremen

Naohiro Takahara substituted in at 65 mins when Hamburg was losing 1-0. Two minutes later, his cross to Kucukovic resulted in the equalizer. A valuable assist for Takahara, who is currently in negotiations with a number of clubs for a possible transfer. One club name that has been linked to Takahara is Bielefeld.

WBA 0-1 Portsmouth

Junichi Inamoto started in his seventh consecutive game, but was not able to do much on the pitch and was the target of much criticism in his performance this match. He has not been able to play this much in 4 years, so it is important for him to keep his starting position. Hopefully he will be able to perform better next round.

Le Mans 0-2 Lens

Another defeat. Daisuke Matsui maintained his starting position, but it's a bad result. He was taken out very early in the second half.

Mallorca 2-2 Atletico Madrid

Yoshito Okubo was being punished for his outburst at the ref in last week's game. Apparently he said something to the ref after the whistle blew, and grabbed his hand, and the ref didn't like the tone (he didn't understand the content since it was in Japanese). A red was given, and right now Okubo is in the doghouse with his manager as well. He appears to be duly penitent for his mistake, though he said that he didn't say anthing obscene or insulting, just that the referee should not have blown the final whistle right after Mallorca was given a corner kick.
J's Youth: Sahara Cup Quarterfinals
fctYouth.jpg(click on photo to see original enlarged at J's Goal: A last minute goal allowance meant an exit for Tokyo.)
I introduced the Sahara Cup to you last week -- a youth cup that is taking place right now. >>Click to see previous entry

I thought I'd do a follow-up, since I attended a couple of the games that took place this weekend. Despite the numb toes and buttocks, it was just pure fun to sit and root and enjoy being outside. J's Goal has posted video digests of the games. I thought it would be fun to share what some of the youth look like.

>>Click to watch FC Tokyo Youth 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse Youth

>>Click to watch Gamba Osaka Youth 1-1 PK(5-3) Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth

>>Click to watch Mitsubishi SC 3-3 PK(8-9) Yokohama F Marinos Youth

>>Click to watch Vissel Kobe Youth 1-1 PK(3-1) Nagoya Grampus Youth

A lot of PKs...
Emperor's Cup: Kashiwa Reysol 3-5 Gamba Osaka
This was the last game left over from the Round 5, and the contrasting sides met up this weekend to determine who would go forward.

As you can see from the score, Gamba have not lost their knack for multi-goal games. What was interesting was seeing Reysol show up with a young team -- the average age of the lineup was something like 22/23 yrs old. It was refreshing to see the young Reysol players, despite being overclassed they fought spiritedly. These young players had nothing to lose and everything to enjoy, and it made for an entertaining game on the whole.

Gamba's Terada scored first, but then Kashiwa returned with two goals from Tatsuya Suzuki. Then Oguro equalized. But then Kashiwa's Ohtani chased with a 79th minute goal. Then Matsunami and Araujo finished things off with one and two goals respectively in the last five minutes of the game.
Toyota Cup 2005: The End
The Toyota Cup Club World Championships has ended with the trophy of World Club Championship trophy going to Sao Paulo! Congratulations to the club and supporters! Another star added!

Extremely sad news to hear about the death of Liverpool manager Benitez's father. It must have been a very anxious way to come into the game for the Liverpool family.

Sao Paulo 1-0 Liverpool

I'm sure those of you who have been following the CWC at all had already seen the game, so no need for me to go into it in detail here. I don't have deep knowledge of either Sao Paulo or Liverpool on the whole, but my impression was that the finishing capabilities that was displayed by Liverpool in their game against Saprissa did not come through. In particular, the changes in the front half of the lineup was a bit of a mystery to me -- Morientes, Kewell and Luis Garcia not being able to contribute as you'd hope they would. The Japanese air seemed to have agreed with Crouch in the Saprissa game, but he did not come on until the last five minutes of this final game.

Sao Paulo got their one precious goal at a very good time in the first half via Mineiro (27 mins), and they clung onto it with a unified team defense to run away with the victory. Sao Paulo controlled the minutes to victory with a steadfast focus, sometimes everyone retreating deep, sometimes pushing their back line up. A very Brazilian display of game smarts. Though Liverpool threw on a barrage of attacks, they just could not get past all that defending.

>>Visit Fifa's CWC page for videos and articles and photos.

Well, this is the end of 2005's Toyota Cup. What did ya think?

Australia and Japan
Sydney's 5th place win over Al Ahly was a nice victory for the home crowds. The Japanese tv broadcasting network exploited Kazu Miura like no one's business, using him to garner as much interest in the Sydney games as possible. I was uncomfortable with that, but understand that is pretty much all they had in their bag of tricks to get as good a ratings domestically as they could. With few people in Japan particularly knowledgeable of most of the clubs aside from Liverpool, it was all they could do to overexpose Kazu's participation in the competition as the only Japanese presence.

A lot of expectation was riding on him to score a goal, but he responded to that pressure as best he could. And though all that attention/support put on the Sydney team was irritating to not only me but probably a lot of the opponent teams as well, Kazu himself did not let it affect his relationship with his Sydney teammates. I think a nice bond was developed there, and considering Australia will be part of the Asian Football Confederation next year, it was valuable that this initiated a connection between Japanese and Australian football. I hear there are even some J-league teams looking at Sydney players for possible transfers.

First Time Jitters
From the performances, we saw that there is still a noticeable gap in performance levels as can be expected. In particular, I think some of the clubs could have put on a little bit better displays had it not been for some teams being unused to the huge climate changes (it was really cold in Japan this week, with the western coast getting dumped in snow) and the nervousness. But that is something that will take time to improve and get used to.

Put That Cookie Down
There was also some news about a couple of the referees getting taken out of the competition after Fifa determined they were not fit enough to be on the pitch... after they had already officiated a game. But there ya go, what competition would be complete without some refereeing controversies?

As a side note, Japan has placed Shinichiro Obata in the position of Chief Refereeing Instructor, after the departure of Leslie Mottram. Among some of the big changes for Japanese refs next year will be the focus on the fitness and health of referees. Up til now it was up to the refs to take care of their own fitness, but now the J will be training and monitoring the fitness levels in their refs. They have hired a Sports Medical consultant to manage that arena.

So the final rankings look like this:
1. Sao Paulo (S.Am)
2. Liverpool (Europe)
3. Saprissa (N/C.Am)
4. Al Ittihad (Asia)
5. Sydney (Oceania)
6. Al Ahly (Africa)

2006 and What to Do About Japan

Fifa seems to be responding in the affirmative to Japan's request to automatically participate in next year's Club Championships (which Japan will host again). For the sake of the financial feasability of the championships, and getting more people in the country to come out and watch games, it makes sense. And, considering World Cup hosts also automatically qualify for the WC it doesn't seem to be as big a stretch.

The stadia were quite empty this week overall, and though the broadcasting network spent a lot of their air time weeks in advance introducing all the teams and the key players and the countries/cities that the teams come from, there was still no real hook for fans to go buy tickets and sit in the freezing cold.

The JFA and J-league and the media have also not provided any support to the teams that participated in the Asian Champions League this year. Part of me wonders if we deserve to step on the pitch as participants if our football league is not willing to support the teams in the inital process of trying to win the ACL. As much as I think how wonderful it would be to see our teams out there playing the best clubs from all continents, I wonder if I can step up and say "Yes, we deserve to be put in".

Then again, there is something to be said about the value of the experience. In other words, if a J-league team is allowed to play in the CWC, that fact alone creates buzz and expectation. The pressure is on for that team to represent Japan, and there is nothing like the power of "saving face" in Japan. Whether we do poorly or unexpectedly well, the bar is set. And later on, if the Toyota Cup moves to another country, Japanese general opionion (like in the World Cup) will naturally be of expectation, forcing the league to support the J teams. It is a risk that could backfire if the J teams don't improve their performance over the next few years; if we don't do well and continue to get clobbered, it will validate the claim that Japanese football "sucks", thus discourageing many in Japan to give the domestic league any attention even if they follow football abroad.

Anyway, if Japan gets the opportunity, I will let go of my discomfort and wholeheartedly support the team and hope for a worthy performance.
Gossip, Rumors, and Random News
Rumor is, Shinji Ono may be coming back to Urawa Reds. Feyenoord have apparently agreed to letting him come back to Japan. But there is some talk still of Ono holding out hope for a move to another Euro league. Though he just came back from his operation/injury, and has not played this season yet... so it will be highly unlikely, unless a club wants him for marketing purposes.

Gossip is, Kazu Miura may end up staying with Sydney FC. His contract was supposed to end after Sydney's final Toyota Cup game (5th place decider), but the club is extremely appreciative of the amount of press coverage and marketing power Kazu has brought to the team. And Litti also wants Kazu to stay.

Ramos wants Kazu too. Ramos, who you know just got his first job as part of the coaching staff at Kashiwa Reysol this season is rocketing up the career ladder like no one's business. He and Kashiwa manager Hayano essentially resigned from their responsibilities at Kashiwa this month, saying they had to take responsibility for Kashiwa's slide to the J2. But Ramos was jobless for about two seconds, when rumor has it an offer from Tokyo Verdy (also relegated for the 2006 season) came through for a proper manager position. There is talk that the former Verdy superstar wants to put together a Verdy-Loyal posse of coaches and players, including Kazu.

I was kinda shocked to see how poorly Takahara is looking in these past several Hamburg games (the three minutes he's played). He looks...grey. Sluggish and heavy, and his expression lacks vigor and strength, like he's retaining water. He reminds me of how Inamoto looked at the beginning of this year. Takahara is rumored to be looking for a transfer during the upcoming window. So two life-changing events await him in the course of the next month (he's getting married next week).

Do any of you know who Kenji Fukuda is? He has been playing as a forward in Paraguay and Mexico for the past couple years, after some time with FC Tokyo and Vegalta Sendai. He's more or less ignored in Japan, despite the fact that technically he is an "overseas" player; though sometimes when he gets goals in big tournaments or games there is some video coverage on tv news. >>Here is his blog. I like to keep an eye on his career because I like that he took the leap to move his career like he did, away from the comfort zone of Japan or even Europe (which, though it is a challenge to play in Europe, a lot of fuss and attention is made just for getting a contract). Anyway, it looks like Fukuda will be moving to the Liga 2nd division Castellon -- they are currently at the bottom of the table.

Gamba are galloping into 2006. I already told you about their offer for FC Tokyo's Kaji, and Oita Trinita's Magno Alves. Now they are out to get Vissel Kobe's forward Bando, Kashiwa Reysol's captain/midfielder Myojin, and Purple Sanga's defender Tejima.

Meanwhile, Urawa Reds may give Gamba some competition. I personally think it would be best not to change the Reds team around much, but certainly a few additions would be great to add depth. I already mentioned the possibility of Shinji Ono returning to his old haunting grounds, but even if he doesn't Urawa have some promising negotiations with Oita Trinita's Takamatsu and Tokyo Verdy's (well ex-Verdy) Washington, both forwards.
CWC: Liverpool 3-0 Saprissa
I was hoping Saprissa's nervousness was over and done with in the first half of the Sydney game a few days ago, but I think it this game against Liverpool may have been a little too much not to be nervous. Saprissa were way to quiet and docile, and it didn't help that Liverpool got a goal so early in the first half. Saprissa had no time to adjust, and I think they just couldn't find themselves on the pitch. Bolanos was the only one really making a real difference for his team; and Solis made his long-awaited entrance onto the pitch.

Liverpool were bigger, tougher, and better. Saprissa did threaten in the first half, especially down the middle, against the two centerbacks, but in the second half manager Benitez switched the defense to a 3-back to compensate.

>>Fifa has posted video highlights
Roy Keane to Celtic
>>Read Guardian article

The rumors were flying for a while now, so what a relief it's finally out of the bag. Though I am unsure how I feel about it. In my typical careful Japanese nature (careful? you, depflight?), I am wondering what such a huge persona will do to the currently fantastic balance of the Celtic attack. It's true, the defense shows vulnerability, but somehow the entire team has contributed when things get hairy in the back, and I had always thought that the vulnerability in defense is what keeps the posture of the team at attention...

But having Keane come to Celtic could also mean Shunsuke Nakamura can go to the left and be joined by Petrov on the right... or maybe Strachan likes to keep Nakamura on the right, I don't know. If any of you have any ideas, please type away in the comments section.
copyright © 2004-2005 Powered By FC2ブログ allrights reserved
copyright 2005 - football (japan) lost in translation