Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Emperor's Cup Tournament Round 5
There is still one more Championship Trophy to be won in Japan this year. This weekend will be Round 5 of the Emperor's Cup, and a great chance for those teams who are now on an upwards swing to get a trophy if they haven't done so already. Let's see who can hold it together and keep going until January 1st's final...

Kashima Antlers v Oita Trinita
Nagoya Grampus v Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds v FC Tokyo
Yokohama F Marinos v Kawasaki Frontale
Jef Chiba v Cerezo Osaka
Jubilo Iwata v Albirex Niigata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima v Shimizu S-Pulse
Gamba Osaka v Kashiwa Reysol

The main games of interest seem to be Kashima/Oita, Urawa/FCT, and Chiba/Cerezo. But since it is a one-off tournament, anything can really happen so you won't find me writing any of the teams off!
Nakamura message re Aberdeen game
I mentioned briefly before that Shunsuke Nakamura was back on the pitch for the Aberdeen game this past weekend. He was sick and could not practice or play with the team for over a week, but somehow made it on to the pitch for this game, and ended up getting MOM anyway despite not being up to regular condition... :) He updated his >>website message with a look back at that game. Below is a translation of his message. Please note that this is a ROUGH translation ONLY.

"This round was an away game at Aberdeen.
Since we lost the last round game against Dunfermline, it was important for us to stop that negative momentum by making sure we won this game. For me personally, my illness caused problems for the club in the last round, and I was determined to make it up by contributing to a win against Aberdeen.

Aberdeen got a goal early in the second half off a free kick, but it was not as if our defense had been broken down for that goal, and everyone seemed to take it in stride and didn't fall apart. And, after that we got consecutive goals and came through with a win [3-1].

Aberdeen's condition was great, but I think our players' focus was what won it at the end of the day. That 3rd goal from Telfer came about exactly as we had practiced during training, but it was so like him to find the goal in the actual game situation. It's a great acquisition for our team to have added to our strategic variation on corner kicks.

I had lost a bit of fitness and muscular strength during my time sick, but was able to play the full 90 minutes without too many errors, so I guess well I did okay. Next is a game against Hibernian, who are doing well and in 3rd place. It will be a difficult game, but we hope to play in our Celtic style at our home grounds, and important for us to add another 3 points and create some distance from the rest of the pack."

Shunsuke Nakamura is the only player aside from Hidetoshi Nakata who makes available any significant game-related insights on his public website messages. Hide Nakata has an English version to his website >>Click to go to website, so no need for my awkward translations there!

The others are unfortunately not finding play time, or do not make available their more meatier comments for public viewing -- you have to pay to become a member of the website fan club, so I cannot do translations for those players.

Browsing the Shinji Ono website, I found out that Ono has created a Shinji Ono Football Club. Essentially he will be putting together events and such for both children and adults, in the hopes of encourageing enjoyment of football in Japan. In the future, he hopes to even set up a proper school. For now, though, it will mainly be individual events that take place with the website as HQ. Ono has joined practice at Feyenoord and his foot seems to be okay. Let's cross our fingers that this is the last of any injury to Shinji in the next year!

Junichi Inamoto congratulated his Gamba Osaka (former) club for their league victory in his website message. The last message regarding an EPL game was the game against Middlesbrough, in which he mentioned he played more defensively and felt perhaps his team had allowed the opponent to possess a little too much. He hopes to aim for more balance, between defense and offense, especially in deciding when to put pressure on the opponent possession and when not to. He also mentioned his mum had come to visit and got to eat her home-cooked meals.
What Happens Next?
With the league season just barely over, the news of player movement has been spilling out at such a rate I can't keep up. I guess I'll just have to wait until the dust settles and see what the 2006 rosters look like for each club.

But of course there are names and news that are worth addressing now, so here's a brief look at some of the more eye-catching moves:

The following non-Japanese players are leaving Japan. Almost all are forwards, so it will be interesting to see whether the clubs fill the slots next season with new forwards from abroad or not.

Araujo - Gamba Osaka
Tuto - Omiya Ardija
Leandro - Omiya Ardija
Washington - Tokyo Verdy
Gil - Tokyo Verdy
Anderson Lima - Albirex Niigata
Gauvao - Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Augusto - Kawasaki Frontale

Of course the news that the media really love to salivate over are the possible transfers abroad.

Right now the biggest news is that Gamba Osaka and NT forward Masashi Oguro has gotten an offer from France's Ligue 2 club Grenoble, and he really wants to go. Some reports are saying the deal will be finalized within the week, but I'll believe it when it happens... Because Oguro was told by his club after the Confed Cup this summer that they would not consider any move from him until after the season and even more so after they won the championship, Oguro actually has the upper hand in negotiations with club management -- because they did win.

grenoble_tsubasa.jpgGrenoble is the same club that made an offer for Jef Chiba captain Abe this summer. There is a definite Japanese color at Grenoble, with their sponsors and most of all with the "Captain Tsubasa" club mascot... They actually had Captain Tsubasa characters drawn specifically for Grenoble! >>Click to see site and French article on the offer for Oguro

To me, having the make-believe world of Tsubasa intersect with the real world of football (and a club where we may see the next Japanese player in Europe), it's very strange. I just hope the club supporters don't expect Oguro to play like Tsubasa... That stuff only happens in the comics! [Though we shouldn't underestimate the power of Captain Tsubasa, as I've heard Zidane say he got his inspiration reading CT, and Daisuke Matsui says similar, even admitting that his aim is to create CT manga-like plays, that he dreams of dribbling in his sleep...]

Urawa Reds Tulio also disclosed that several foreign clubs have shown interest, and he has shown a great desire to go abroad for the challenge. For Reds, however, Tulio has now become a solid central figure in the team -- having scored the most goals in the team (despite being a defender), and being a key player in harnessing the fighting spirit of the team. He got a nice little raise as well, but Tulio seems quite set on going abroad. "If I transfer in June 2006, that would cause more problems for the team." But the club say he ain't going nowhere. And technically he hasn't gotten any offical offers yet either...
Lights Out for Reysol?
kofu_kashiwa_blackout.jpgWell, it is only the first leg of the playoffs, but certainly not uneventful.

Ventforet Kofu (J2) 2-1 Kashiwa Reysol (J1)

>>Click to see Video digest of game

It was freezing, it was rainy, and then the lights went out. Literally. Fortunately for Kofu, the blackout occured when they already had the 2-1 lead, and the rhythm was in Reysol's corner.

kofu_kashiwa_playoff.jpgWhen Kashiwa got the first goal in early minutes of the game, it may have worked against Kashiwa and for Kofu. Nothing as scary as having a lead early in a game for the winning team, and as Reysol's manager Hayano said after the game, "we played too defensively after we got the goal". For Kofu, allowing the early lead gave their players a nothing-to-lose situation, and they were able to play with more aggressiveness, using their key players, especially their most feared goal-getter Bare, who was involved in both goals.

The blackout could have made things bad for either side, but the 35 minute interruption during the remaining few minutes of the second half was more disadvantageous to the visiting Kashiwa. Not to mention the poor spectators who were sitting in the dark, in the rain and cold for that period of time (though I heard they kept warm by singing through the darkness!).

Blackouts during games in Japan usually have been caused by lightning strikes, and are quite rare. This time the blame was put on the fact that they did not properly prepare for the huge spike in usage. The crowds at this playoff game were double their usual J2 attendance, and add the over one hundred press people, the extra concession stands, and the heaters required, the use of electricity was much more than they had anticipated...which caused the failure.

The second leg will take place on the Dec 10 at Kashiwa's Hitachi stadium.
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