Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Seven O'Clock on a Weekday...
With only 2-3 days between the last round and this Round 5, not only players/teams but fans are also struggling with this tough scheduling. From what I've read on various blogs it looks like many are going to attempt ditching work early (or even taking the day off depending on how far away the stadium is) and some have given up trying to go as their schedules won't allow it.

Personally I was trying to figure out a way to get my derriere over to the boondocks of Kashima Stadium for the Omiya vs. Kashima game tomorrow night. These two teams are in the top three overall right now behind FC Tokyo. It would have been cool -- apparently Kashima are giving out free strawberries (it'll be melons and tuna?? in future games; don't ask)!! And it would have been worth it to see my pal Furtho's Ardija play against my Antlers -- and for some reason Kashima stadium has a romantic lure for me esp at night...I know, I'm just a confused puppy... It would be a good game to watch at night, and spectator numbers would be lower than usual because of the schedule... But I figured it would take 4 hours each way, and that was just not going to happen particularly the return trip produces too many logistical problems.. But if you live within range, I urge you to try and make it!

In-Fight on the Mend with the Club
Speaking of Kashima, it looks like the giant rift that developed between the club and the supporters last year (if you remember the bottle-throwing incident that ended with supporters spilling onto the pitch and getting into a scuffle with some players) may be on the mend. After that incident, the players were told to stay within a certain distance of the supporter section behind the goal -- when they made their bows at the end of the game they were told to stay within the bounds of the pitch, not go up near the seats. A net was also put up to protect against falling objects, so you can see that trust needed to be regained between the two sides.

It helps that the team itself is showing more guts and spirit this year and getting solid results, but from what I've followed in the In-Fight (the name for the Kashima supporters main group) culture they are also making a heartfelt effort to make things better. They came out with the new Max Volume II version supporter song which you can listen to here for the full version. The entire supporter section sung this complete version before the Kashiwa Reysol game a few weeks ago. Right before the game, a personal message from Kashima coach Cerezo was sent directly to them -- the gist of his message was that he and the team heard them and were extremely moved. Many Antlers supporters said on their blogs that they were inspired by the acknowledgment. This small gesture between the two sides seems to have opened up a new awareness. In-Fight has started to make a pre-game announcement regarding their (the supporters') objectives/policy going into each game on their website. On the club side, Antlers has started to display messages from the players and the coach to the supporters on their large screen display before the game. Small steps, sure. But definitely good to see after the breakdown of last season.

All in all, there aren't any real big attention-getting clashes. Though you never know, these innocuous-looking match-ups sometimes provide the most exciting game content. Hard to predict where, though. Will report back with the juicy results!

The most troubling injury annoucements coming out of this weekend's games were of course the news that Akira Kaji (FC Tokyo) would be out for about 4 weeks from an injury he got in the game against Jubilo, and the news that the foot injury that Takayuki Suzuki (Antlers) was in the process of healing after the NT game against Bahrain would take yet a few more weeks. These two being starting members for their clubs which are in the top two right now, and both being starting members for the Japan national team, it is certainly worrying.

Praying that none of the teams have to play in cold rain tomorrow...!!
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