TOKYO (February 26): There were some interesting facts and figures flying around the Japanese football scene this week.
Did you see how many applications there had been for tickets for Japan's next home World Cup qualifier?
Amazingly, the JFA had received over 810,000 ticket applications for the March 30 match against Bahrain at the 63,700-capacity Saitama Stadium 2002.
(I say next home match, but it's not their next qualifier, of course, because they take on Iran in Tehran on March 25).
That figure of 810,000 is more than double the previous record of 350,000 applications for the North Korea game at the same venue on February 9.
I have no idea how many applications the major football powers receive for their home World Cup qualifiers, but I cannot imagine it will be anywhere near those figures.
In fact, judging from TV highlights from around Europe and South America, most of them don't even look sold out, never mind have a waiting list of a few hundred thousand!
Looking back on the North Korea game, it's no wonder there is such a massive demand for the Bahrain qualifier.
According to a source from the marketing giant Dentsu, the average TV audience rating for Japan-North Korea was a whopping 47 per cent.
But when it came to the last few minutes, when both teams were pushing for victory with the score at 1-1, that figure climbed to over 57 per cent!
Japan, of course, bagged the winner in injury time through Oguro, and there's no calculating the amount of fervour released in those few seconds.
With the new J.League season just about to kick-off, these are encouraging statistics for all concerned with the game in this country.
But it's worth pointing out that national team fans do not necessarily support a J.League team on a regular basis.
That's a shame, as it seems they prefer the glamour and the glitz of "Blue Heaven" rather than the bread-and-butter diet of league football.
Just think, if all those 810,000 applicants for Japan-Bahrain attended one of the 15 J.League games every week (nine in J1, six in J2 now there are 30 teams), the average crowd would be 54,000!
How the J.League would dream about that...