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Apple alert for Frontale fans in Iran

18 Jun 2007(Mon)

June 15, 2007: Well, let's look on the bright side -- an all-Japan final in the 2007 Asian Champions League in November.

Reds against Frontale; one leg at Todoroki, the other at Saitama Stadium 2002. This would be the perfect scenario for Japan, wouldn't it, and it is still possible now the draw has been made for the knockout stages.

We knew before the draw that Reds and Frontale would be kept apart for the quarter-finals, but there was no guarantee they would avoid each other in the semi-finals, should they get there, of course.

One school of thought is that it would be better for them to meet in the last four, as it would guarantee Japan had a representative in the final.

But that's slightly negative in my opinion.

I prefer to take the ultra-positive approach, and back them both to reach the final now they have done the hard part by coming out of their groups. After all, there is little margin for error in the four-team preliminary round groups, as only the top one, not top two, go through.

So hopefully Reds and Frontale can get past Chonbuk Motors and Sepahan, respectively, in the quarter-finals, and will motivate each other in the semi-finals to set up an all-Japan showdown.

Reds will be at home to the reigning Asian champions in the first leg, on September 19, while Frontale will have home advantage for the second leg, on September 26.

My only advice to the Frontale fans thinking of heading for Iran is...take a crash helmet!

This is from my experience of joining 800 Japanese fans on a "dangan" tour to Tehran in March 2005 for the Iran-Japan World Cup qualifier.

We arrived at the hotel for lunch at midday, and were informed that there was already 100,000 fans in the Azadi Stadium six hours before kick-off!

When the convoy of buses with the Japanese fans arrived at the ground, it was like a scene from "The Gladiator" as we entered the arena like sacrifical slaves to the slaughter, for the entertainment of the spectators. They had reserved a small section behind the goal into which Fukunishi would score Japan's equaliser in an eventual 2-1 defeat, but the stand above us was packed with Iranians who used the Japanese as target practice for a cascade of missiles -- fortunately none of them nuclear.

One Japanese girl had turned round to look at the giant electronic scoreboard above, and an apple had caught her full in the face, producing an ugly, massive swelling on her cheek but fortunately missing her eyes.

Frontale fans -- take those helmets, and watch out for flying apples. They pack quite a punch from the second tier of a stand.


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