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Tsune's socks and Shunsuke's shin pads would be a well-deserved treat for fans

20 Apr 2006(Thu)

Tokyo, April 18, 2006 -- Nagoya Grampus Eight head coach Sef Vergoossen was among the spectators at the Frontale-Ardija game at Todoroki on Sunday afternoon.

He was there to study Frontale ahead of Nagoya's home game against them on Saturday, and, judging from a quick chat I had with him, seemed to pick up a lot of useful information.

He also made some very interesting comments about Japanese football in general, or, rather, about Japanese players.

What he said made sense to me, and I must admit I've seen it frequently in the past. It's just that a newcomer to Japanese football notices these things immediately, as Europe is still fresh in his mind.

This is what he was on about:

Basically, he feels that the players do not give enough of their time to the supporters. He's not talking about holding social functions in the evenings or anything like that, just dealing with the kind of situation that arises after training and after matches all the time.

"I think there's a big difference between the players and the fans," he said, adding that it was the responsibility of the players to close this gap.

He gave a few examples.

After training, players could spare a few minutes before jumping into their luxury SUVs to sign autographs and have their photos taken with fans who have hung around for a couple of hours in all sorts of weather.

And after games, he said the fans may be only 10 metres away from the team bus, but often players ignored them.

He even recalled the case of a Japanese player in Europe, whose name I shall not reveal, who just walked past a small group of Japanese supporters who had gone to watch him train with his club.

"It looks a little bit arrogant," said Vergoossen.

I have seen this with the national team, especially away from home. There may be a couple of thousand "daihyo" die-hards (hey, that phrase has marketing potential...I think I'll register it as a trademark!) who have paid a lot of money and travelled a long way to cheer on the Boys in Blue, only to be ignored after the final whistle.

I've often wondered why the players haven't gone over to them, waved and maybe even thrown them a souvenir or two.

A sock from Tsune, a shin pad from Shunsuke, one of Hide's gloves...I'm sure the JFA would be able to replace them at little extra cost!

Vergoossen, of course, is not referring to all players, as there will be some exceptions. He is just generalising from his first impressions, and I must say he has made a good point.

Although the players bow ritually to their fans after J.League games, win, lose or draw, I feel there could be more recognition and emotion on behalf of the players.

"You have to respect your supporters," said Vergoossen, "because without them there would be no professional football."

So come on players...next time show the fans you really care and throw them a sock or a glove -- and then they'll keep coming back to try and get the other one to complete the pair!


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