Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
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Lost In Translation
Inu mo arukeba bou ni ataru

An old Japanese saying: directly translated "Even when a dog walks, he will hit a stick." Has both positive and negative meaning revolving around the theme of action and consequences. You cause some kind of action and it will result in some kind of consequence.

It has been a really interesting year. When I first started this blog back in February, my take on it was that of a person trekking out into the middle of the desert and digging a hole just for the fun of it. Kinda pointless, kind of a personal challenge, and not bothering anyone.

If you check out >>my very first entry, you'll see I said something to that effect.

But it turned out to be nothing like I expected. I ended up not in this vacuum of the internet where I affected nothing and nothing affected me. Instead, I have been motivated and inspired by not only the football I've watched but also the voices of the people (football fans) who have shared their thoughts with me. And I am grateful to those people who have contacted me over the past year with comments and questions, keeping me on my toes. The blog also allowed me to "meet" a lot of good people, football writers and football fans as well as fellow bloggers.

I have also had my share of not-so-nice experiences as well. But I chalk it up to lessons well learned.

One of the things I think that struck me most was the unavailability of much Japanese football news in English (or any non-Japanese language). Not big news about the big stars, but the day to day kind of intelligent discussions that makes following football seductive, especially if you don't have access to full games. Of course, this is quite understandable. Not that many people in the world really care or know about football in this country, and part of my initial motivation for starting this blog was to bring a wide range of current topics to people who are curious.

Losing Us in Bad Translation

The trickiest part for me has been the translations. Which is why I have prefaced the direct quotes I've personally translated with "rough translation". It is something I want to underline a hundred times, not just when people read what I personally have translated, but also when you read any translations. Believe me, I've seen some extremely shoddy translating on a wide range of media -- both in and outside Japan, on tv and in print.

Along with translating the meaning word by word, the problem lies in the context of the comment as well as cultural context. And sometimes you will have people being quoted for saying things they didn't even say. To be honest, I have been rather unimpressed with the cavalier attitude with which many professional writers have used translations and quotes in sports (especially in football, where many countries are represented even inside one club) -- as many of you speak more than one language, you probably know what I mean.

Having struggled with this issue throughout the year myself, I was saddened when recently one of Japan's most famous baseball players, Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) was the victim of exactly this kind of foggy interpretation.

>>Click to read article

>>Click to read what the original Japanese interviewer/writer had to say in response

As you can see, once it's "out there", you can't stop the bleeding. The P-I tried to defend their unquestionable error by saying they were justified in "reading between the lines" of the article. But as you can see the original author/interviewer has claimed those nuances as his own bias (how he saw the season and Ichiro's position in the team).... and you can go on and on, around and around. For a while there, the city of Seattle turned on one of their most loved athletes... backlash is that easy. I guess it's just something to keep in mind especially if you read a quote translation that sounds out of character. First be skeptical, is what I learned.

But this is not to say we should stop trying to understand cross-culturally. No indeed. What fun would that be?

That is, afterall, why I started the blog in the first place. I'm just learning as I go along.

I hope you continue to join me next year. We have lots and lots coming up -- the J league season with three newly promoted teams, more transfers in the works, the Asian Champions League, the Japanese players in the European leagues, the Asia Cup qualifiers, and the gem of it all: the World Cup!

But first in the next four days, we have the Emperor's Cup Semis and Finals.

Oh, and my New Year's Resolutions to come.

If you have suggestions, gripes, comments, and questions about the blog, now is the time to tell me!
Sahara Cup 2005: J's Youth
I thought I'd wrap up the results of the Sahara Cup, the annual J's Youth Cup I've been following out of the corner of my eye. Since these games are not televised (at least not included in my cable tv package), it has been extremely helpful that J's Goal website has been posting game highlights.


Shimizu S-Pulse Youth 6-2 Gamba Osaka Youth
>>Click to launch video digest stream

Vissel Kobe Youth 1-1 (PK 3-1) Yokohama F Marinos Youth
>>Click to launch video digest stream


As someone who spends time writing about football in Japan, I have to admit it is easier to find overarching themes if the teams that consistently make it to the top are to some degree predictable. But if this year, and writing for this blog, has taught me anything, it's that sometimes lessons can be learned in the exceptions to the rule. You have teams with undeniable strength in defense, you have teams that are young and can become unstoppable if they get momentum, you have teams that take advantage of individual excellence, you have teams with tremendous presence in their veterans and leaders, you have teams that have managers who know how to strategize.

The Sahara Cup finals this year took place between two teams that weren't really expected to end up there. It wasn't Gamba Youth, with their artillery of talent. It wasn't Verdy Youth, who were aiming for their third title of the year. And it wasn't even Marinos Youth, with their army of players with international experience.

Both Shimizu S-Pulse and Vissel Kobe Youth clubs have had so-so years. But the fact that they made it to the finals in this final competition of the year does show that they have grown and acquired on a game to game basis a strength of character and power of spirit. Not to mention, a mental cohesion and balance of the team. And maybe it is fitting that in this final month of the year, when it is easy especially for young players to start getting distracted and lose focus, other teams that have depended on pedigree and individual talent could not put forth that little bit extra to clinch a win.

Shimizu S-Pulse Youth 4-1 Vissel Kobe Youth>>Click to launch video digest stream

Both Shimizu and Vissel managers were far from impressed when they first took over their respective teams about a year ago. One said he couldn't believe this was the youth club for an actual professional J league team, the other said of his team that in the Youth clubs theirs was the worst team. Under their harsh but perhaps honest evaluation, it took them a year or so, both teams gradually matured and got their act together -- and the result was their ascension to the finals of this Cup just before the close of the year.

Both sides played with a 4-4-2 system, with their strength in defense and liking their attack via the sides. But Shimizu had one ingredient Vissel didn't -- attacking options via the top scorer Nagasawa. Shimizu put on an aggressive display, pressing well and switching to a speedy attack when they gained possession. Kobe, in retrospect, may have gotten overly careful and played too timidly. Though Kobe were helped by some good saves from their GK, and woke up to play some good football in the second half, Shimizu had the momentum and took it to the final whistle.

The Youth program is of course foremost seen as the developing grounds for the professional stage. And in that respect, the current Youth scene, characterized by the lack of eye catching break-out talent, is something that has people worried with respect to the future. But it is also important for these young players to acquire a taste for winning. Football is a sport, and in the end winning is everything in the pros. The art may be in the technique and talent, but the drama is in the knife's edge difference between losing and winning.

Congratulations to Shimizu S-Pulse Youth!
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