footy weekends -Kyoto & Brighton-

Football life

Views from the Stadium for a J League Newbie
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder……


…………And the need to invest in a pair of binoculars for probably the first time in your life.
Yes….., there is a running track around the pitch. Yes, this means that you are rather far away from the action on the pitch, and yes,this is not helped by the lack of replays available to watch. Unless you bring your own mini portable TV along to the stadium. So yes, in some ways, watching a J League game at the stadium makes you realize how spoilt you were when you used to watch a Premier League or Championship game live. Seats so close to the pitch you could shake the hand of the player who just took the throw-in in front of yourseat. Stadiums designed for football.



Even after investing in a stadium with a retractable pitch for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, (it floats back indoors on a bed of air),football in Japan is still losing out to its big sister ‘baseball’ it seems. Stadium turn outs here are quite low, hardly ever full, and investment in local grounds dedicated to football are also quite scarce in comparison with back home. My newly adopted local team has to share its home ground with track and field meets. Hence the track.These are rather sad things for someone who shares their place ofbirth with the game itself and the Premier League. It is rather hard to accept the lack of dedication and investment in the game, let alonethe distance from it.


Being away from home, and the home of the Premier League, only being able to catch a game here or there on cable TV, not being able to get to one of their magnificent stadiums to see a match, the distance from the delights of a live game. This distance had gotten to me more. So the search began for a replacement, and there it was, the J League,and my J2 (Championship level) local team.Even though my new team’s ground has a track, doesn’t have a replay screen, or most of the stuff my Premier League or Championship team has at their respective stadiums, the distance was decreasing between myself and the game. It’s not as if the games back home were that accessible anyway. Trying to get a ticket, trying to afford a ticket,increased the distance between myself and my teams. Whereas with my new J2 team, getting to a live game here is so accessible, and has all the qualities you want from a stadium experience. Yes I do wonder to myself whether the players can hear our chanting and words of support,can they even make us out from the away fans?  The track does also make it rather hard to celebrate a goal with the players, by the time they’ve run over to the stands across the track, they’re verging on earning a yellow for time wasting. But all that being said, in the distance from home and home teams, a strange kind of loneliness and yearning for a local team to support and hopefully love, for this newbie the J League gives enough to forgive the track.



Perhaps it’s partly because of the track that the club works so hard to narrow the distance between themselves and the fans to create this stadium experience. You want to go to the stadium every Sunday,because you feel like you’re wanted, and not just because you’re shelling out large amounts on tickets (tickets here are very reasonable, the equivalent of 15-30 pounds). Walking around the square and outside of the stadium, you walk through what is like a neighbourhood fete, with regular members of the club staff giving you a genuine welcome and appreciation for coming. There are players having their photos taken and chatting with the fans in a special booth. You can line up for the high-five tunnel to greet the players coming off the team bus. The players are working from the second they arrive at the stadium, on and off the pitch, to create a closeness between themselves and the fans. What got to me the most though, was that after the game,whether they won, lost or drew, there is a lap of appreciation by the players as they walk around the track (maybe that’s what it’s for) to celebrate together or apologise, and always thank their fans. They don’t just walk off down the tunnel to the changing room, back to their headphones and smartphones. They take the time to connect with the people that have come out to see them.There’s none of the prima-donna complex you get in the Premier League sometimes, where the fans, even having paid out an arm and a leg to see them, can be made to feel like a nuisance, and something to be kept at a safe distance from their idols.

So in this distant place from the football stadiums and football culture I was brought up with, I’ve managed to get even closer to the game I love.



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July 7, 2014