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Behind the Scenes with Verdy
I did promise in this entry (at the end) that if I learned anything more/new about that Round 5 game between Verdy 1 - 4 Sanfrecce I would follow up. Well, I had totally forgotten that I slurred my way through that game -- and didn't even finish the commentary. Oops. Sorry!

Well, it's a long time back now but I read an article in this past week's Soccer Digest No. 780 written by Verdy's Kentaro Hayashi regarding what went on surrounding that terrible match. I thought it was interesting to hear about what happened off the pitch regarding that game:

It was a chilly night with a harsh northern wind. April 13, Ajinomoto Stadium. We were facing Sanfecce at home. Verdy returned to the lockerrooms after a first half devoid of any commendable play 0-1. When we got to the lockerroom, we were greeted by our coach "Ossie", fuming with anger. "The content was tragic. If you're going to lose with content like that anyway, you may as well take the risk of giving up 5, 10 goals and at least show some ambition for the goal. I am feeling absolutely no passion from you guys," he said. The tone of his voice was no different than usual, but his bright red ears gave away his inner emotions. We had been on a non-losing streak for 11 games counting back to last year, but the Frontale game (Round 4, 0-1) gave us a taste of defeat we hadn't had in a while. So before this Sanfrecce game, Ossie said to us, "The key to today's game will be to think of it as a new beginning, a fresh start. This is an important theme for us to digest emotionally." He had stressed the importance of the spirit in times like these.

Going into the second half with renewed energy, my position changed from the back line to midfield; but we ended up allowing an early goal again. A wet blanket was thrown over us mood-wise, and we couldn't quite grasp our tempo. We tried to "show ambition for the goal" but I ended up getting my second yellow card and had to leave the game. It was truly like having the rockets die out before we even had liftoff. I wonder how long it's been since I've experienced such humiliation. It was completely understandable for Ossie to get angry. At the meeting the next day, Ossie dealt with our psychological damage. "Yesterday's game was the worst game I've seen since coming to Japan. It's one thing if we play our very best, and it just turns out that the other team was just a little better than us and we lose. But we basically gift-wrapped the win for them. Luckily for us, we have another game soon (3 days later, game against Omiya) that will give us a chance to leave that humiliation behind. So let's get properly prepared and work. We won the Emperor's Cup, we won the Xerox Super Cup, and then things got weird for us. Until then we were making a really good effort to play well. But the moment we got to that level, we stopped making that effort."

Always rise to the challenge. We have to express this feeling on the pitch. That night...with the cold northern winds scattering the sakura blossoms, the sign of Japan's spring... that night is over. And the warmth is returning. Now that our bodies and hearts have reclaimed the heat, we have to recall the forgotten spirit of rising to the challenges. We will be aiming for the crucial four wins during the game-packed Golden Week period.
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