How can anyone resist the lure of a Japan versus South Korea match at the Olympic Games?
Even though it started at 8.30 in the morning, and needed a train ride, a tram ride and a long walk to get to the stadium.
And even though it was women's hockey.
I had to go, for a number of reasons.
First, I like the rivalry of Japan-Korea. It reminds me of England-Scotland back home.
Second, I like hockey. It reminds me of football in many aspects: Eleven players on the team, and formations such as 4-4-2 and 3-5-2.
There are defenders, liberos, midfielders, wingers, strikers, playmakers, goal-poachers...you name it. Everything in football exists in hockey, except for the obvious fact they carry sticks, just in case you hadn't noticed.
Third, the journey to the stadium was delightful, even though I was half asleep. It followed the coastline out of Athens, past the beaches and the sparkling sea.
On a morning when the sun was burning into your skin, even at 8.30, Japan trailed 3-0 very quickly.
Captain Miura (Keiko, not Kazu) pulled one back for Japan just before half-time, but there were no further goals in the second period, and Japan lost 3-1.
While I think there are too many stoppages in field hockey, one rule I really like concerns substitutions.
I have pointed out this before, during the 2002 Asian Games in Pusan, Korea, but I feel strongly that FIFA should copy it to cut down on time-wasting and gamesmanship in football.
Here's the example.
Korea wanted to make a substitution in the second half.
The No. 6 was going to enter the field, so she stood on the touchline (sideline) holding up the number of the player she was going to replace. It was the No. 8.
They had to choose the right moment to exchange the players. The No. 8 ran to the side, took the small placard with her number on it off the player waiting to come on, the No. 6, and the substitution was complete. The game never stopped.
Imagine this was football.
A team leading 3-1 in the second half wants to make a change. The substitute comes off the bench to the touchline, the fourth official holds up the number of the player to come off, who is usually on the far side of the pitch, and then everything stops as the player walks off as slowly as possible.
Toward the end of a tight game, the closing stages are often ruined by constant substitutions to break up the flow.
If football adopted the hockey rule, this form of gamesmanship would be cut out, although I am sure players would then pretend they were injured and stay down so the game would have to stop.
The Olympics give you a chance to watch many sports, and the more you see the more you realize how little fair play and sportsmanship there is in modern football.