Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Reds Hot
This Monday, JLeague Chairman Suzuki announced their intention to try and increase the number of teams to 20 in J1 and 14 in J2. This year, with the move to a one-season system and new faces Kawasaki Frontale and Omiya Ardija joining the first league, (this year J1 has 18 teams, J2 has 12) it seems that 2005 will allow the suits to gauge and act on market possibilities.
Well I'm pretty clueless when it comes to the financial machinations of sports teams, so I won't comment on whether increasing the number of teams is a good thing or bad. However, it does make me appreciate the enthusiastic supporters that do exist for the J teams already. The one that obviously leaps to mind are the Urawa Red Diamond supporters, who have become such a phenomenon that you can't talk about a Reds game without talking about the supporters' performance as well. Their presence brings tension and excitement to any game, as opponent supporters scramble to figure out ways to drown them out. Last year, I remember that many Reds supporters had joined fan clubs of opponent teams in order to get their hands on extra tickets as well as "take over" the opponent area in the stadium. And the intimidation factor of their dedication and numbers was enough to make me applaud their energy but root for the Anyway, if you've never seen an example of the Reds Supporters, take a look at this video (watch the words appear, very cool) courtesy of Reds Supporters website. The red-colored links with the characters 動画 in the front are links to video footage taken at games by supporters. (Though my personal favorite cheer song is this one from the Kashima Antlers supporters, but...) CONT'D
Speaking of Urawa Reds, I realize that I still haven't really touched on the team yet. The Reds have become a very frightening team to their opponents. Not only did their star forward Emerson score the most goals of any player last year, but the entire team just oozes "attack"; even their defenders like Tulio and Alpay are extremely aggressive. After years of "almosts" and disappointments (like their relegation to J2 in 1999) there is something in the air that makes you feel like this may be the year that the Reds may do something incredible. Again, it is important to note that the sustainability and improvement of this team is greatly owed to the supporters who never diminished in numbers despite a string of disappointments throughout the last decade.

Last year the team welcomed back Guido Buchwald, a former player for the Reds, as their new coach. As a defender for the German national team in World Cup 1990, Buchwald had become famous for his performance stopping the "best player in the world", Maradona. The German-style attack-oriented football has been embraced by Japanese football fans, and their presence in the league brings more drama to the season. Although sometimes I think their over-aggressive image pushes other teams to play such a defense-oriented game that it seems to backfire on the Reds, causing frustration when they can't get a goal despite many opportunities.

Pre-Season Match: This past Sunday, Urawa played a pre-season game against Kusatsu (who have just been promoted to J2). I was unable to get any video of this match, so I can only go on the score and Buchwald's post-game comments. However, it looked like Kusatsu did a nice job organizing their defense in the first half against Urawa's 3-6-1 formation. Urawa was missing Emerson and Tanaka, and perhaps this did influence the team's scoring probability a little. The inability to find the back of the net contributed to some unraveling in concentration among the Urawa players, both offensively and defensively. In the beginning of the second half, at 49 minutes, Kusatsu player Sakai scored. There's nothing like a good kick in the pants like that to wake a team up. At 64 minutes Alex Santos's direct free kick; 77 mins Nagai; 81 mins Okano. The final score was 3-1 Urawa.

Urawa Reds players on the current NT roster include Alex Santos and Keisuke Tsuboi. Other players like Nobuhisa Yamada, Yuichiro Nagai, have played for the NT in the past but not recently. Tatsuya Tanaka and Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Keita Suzuki was cut from the team just prior to Athens) were members of the U23 Olympic Team. The Olympic team was joined by Shinji Ono (as an overage player), who is also a former Urawa player and still continues to think of it as his "home".

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