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Is the All-Star game the next to go?

8 Jul 2004(Thu)

There was a very "American" feel to the J.League when it kicked off in 1993.

Golden goals, penalty shoot-outs, no drawn matches....and, of course, an All-Star game.

Over the years, the J.League has dropped most of the gimmicks, and the game in general here is all the better for these changes.

Next season, for example, we will have an 18-team first division and a one-stage championship rather than the two-stage version.

With the normal points system already in place, three for a win and one for a draw, the 2005 J.League season will look just like any other in the mainstream football world.

So congratulations to the J.League for adapting the format to cater for the growing number of true football fans in Japan.

I wonder what the next thing to go will be?

Personally, and this may surprise many fans, I would scrap the annual All-Star game.

I find this a very alien concept in the football world, with little meaning or significance.

I watched Saturday's game from Niigata on television, and thought it was dull, despite the 3-3 draw.

I'm sure the players would have preferred a weekend off at the end of the first stage, and I'm sure the national coaches would have preferred the players to rest, too.

Several Olympians were in action, including the MVP Ishikawa. I wonder what Yamamoto-kantoku would have been thinking when Ishikawa, Tanaka, Tulio, Konno etc. were involved in physical contact. I'm sure he must have been grimacing, as an injury to a key player at this time in such a meaningless match would have been annoying to say the least.

Same with the national team players.

After the Antlers-Jubilo game recently at Kashima, I chatted with Toshiya Fujita and he said he was only 70 percent fit. With the Kirin Cup and Asian Cup around the corner, I was surprised to see Toshiya playing at the Big Swan.

There again, the guy has a big heart, and probably did not want to let down his fans. Even at Kashima, after Jubilo had lost in injury time, he still found time to sign autographs for Antlers fans outside the stadium.

Although the J.League, as usual, staged a spectacular event, and attracted high-profile sponsors and a big crowd, I can't help thinking that the All-Star game is one game too many in a crowded season.

ends

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