footy weekends -Kyoto & Brighton-

Footy tourism

How to unite under the green


If you are after a weekend of passion and excitement, you want to sample some local specialities, and fancy watching some inspiring football, then I have to recommend you pay a visit to the home of Matsumoto Yamaga F.C. in Nagano, for the full away game package. Matsumoto City has it all, plenty of historic buildings such as Matsumoto Castle, an abundance of stress-melting onsens, as well as being surrounded by some of the most stunning mountain views in Japan. Only about 4 hours by car from Kyoto on the motorway, or 3 hours by express train, putting football aside for a second, it’s a beautiful city that is well worth a visit.


Even though they have just had their 3rd birthday as a J League team, this relatively new member of J2 is fighting for glory as it edges its way to the top of the table. Their ‘One soul’ chant intensely resounding around the stadium coupled with their robust defence and quick counter-attack, make for quite an intimidating opponent. Knowing it was unlikely that Yamaga would graciously give us our next victory, but looking forward to taking in the passion of their stadium, it was with a feeling of excitement tinged with fear that we headed off to Matsumoto for our next footy adventure.

フットボールを抜きにしても行ってみたい美しい街、松本市とその周辺の街のフットボールクラブ・松本山雅FCは、"One soul"というキャッチフレーズの下、Jリーグ(J2)に参入3年目のチームでありながら、堅牢な守備と素早いカウンターアタックを持ち味にリーグ上位に食い込む。我らが京都サンガにとっては、リーグ戦3分2敗(2014年4月)と勝ちが無い手強い存在であり、あのスタジアムの熱狂を体験出来るのは胸躍ることではあるけれど、なかなか勝たせてくれない相手でもあり、複雑な気持ちにもさせる旅にある。

Yamaga F.C is supported by a town full of not just football fans, but people who love the game and welcome with open arms anyone from the other team, who like them share the joy of the game itself. Outside the station the first thing you notice is a welcome sign for use Kyoto-ites who have travelled up for the game. Take a short walk towards the town centre, and there in just a regular opticians, was a window display dedicated to the Yamaga vs. Sanga match. The shop’s owner had not only taken the time to make a welcome sign for us Sanga fans, but had also knocked up his own match day preview with a bit of history between the two clubs. Carry on a bit further, and outside a pub that seemed to be a meeting place for the Yamaga fans, there was a black board covered with friendly banter and welcome messages for the rival fans to enjoy (and be fearful of!). As we passed all this on our way to the game, we were getting more fired up for the footy weekend and picked up the pace to get to the stadium.


例えばそれは、駅の改札口を出たところに、京都からやってきた我らを歓迎する旗を掲げるところから始まり、街を歩けば、眼鏡店の主人が我々に向けた歓迎のメッセージと、Match day previewをShow windowに掲げ、居酒屋の店先に掛かる黒板には、双方のサポーターが激しくもかつ友好的なメッセージを書き込み、フットボールのある週末を盛り上げる。


After the game on the way back to the car park, we were like a couple of purple fish adrift in this almost tidal wave of green shirts. Suddenly some of the Yamaga fans, who were still proudly wearing their green shirts, noticed our attire, and began shouting out to us. “Well done today!”, “Take care going back to Kyoto”. Eventually we were reunited with the car, untouched and perfectly intact, as I was confident that she would be. I was really struck by the unity of this green town and the love they show for their own team, and whilst I’m sure there were a few less ‘welcoming’ fans amongst all those green shirts, I was also taken aback by their tolerance of people wearing opposition colours in their territory. This place is truly a ‘football community’.
Later that night we took a taxi back from the pub to our hotel, and ended up chatting to the driver about the game earlier that day. Instead of awkwardly talking around the subject, we commiserated one another about the lack of 3 points on either side. As we collected our key at the hotel, this was conversation was repeated with the owner. With absolutely no animosity, both of us ended up praising each other’s team for their valiant effort on the pitch. (Not sure I can guarantee what my reaction would have been had it been a win for Yamaga rather than a very peaceful draw though.)
After sampling the excitement and passion of this stadium, trying the local specialities, and soothing our bones in the onsen, the hospitality of Matsumoto I’m sure eased the anguish of another week without 3 points.




A weekend with football really helps facing Monday that comes around all too soon. Through weekends like this, football has become a kind of friend that gets me through the week until the next footy weekend begins.


Matsumoto Yamaga F.C. / 松本山雅F.C.

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June 20, 2014