« Chances remain for Japan's ACL trio | Main | Gamba, Reds and yellows »

Flag-gate, Alex and 'Sir' Alex

25 Sep 2008(Thu)

September 24, 2008: Thank goodness for Fukuda Denshi Arena, and JEF United's exhilarating 2-1 victory over Nagoya Grampus on Tuesday evening.

I must admit I needed that -- a good game, played in a fantastic atmosphere, and with fair play on and off the pitch.

It restored my faith in Japanese football after the ugly events involving Antlers fans at Kashiwa on Saturday, and there was a real buzz in the air around Soga Station after the game.

Yes, it was that good at Fukuare.

Grampus played like champions-elect in the first half, taking the lead with a wonderful long-range strike from Ogawa, but JEF turned it round with two goals at the start of the second period and then held on in a nail-biting finish.

Fukai was a hero for JEF on the night, scoring the winner and bringing pace and energy to the attack. Have JEF found the new Hanyu? The mini-Hanyu, with the left foot?

As a former Grampus player, Fukai was jeered by the travelling away fans, but nothing wrong or unusual with that. I would like to point out, though, that when Fukai had completed his "hero interview" for TV and trotted towards the "away" end to begin his lap of honour, the Grampus fans applauded him generously and he returned the compliment. This is the true face of Japanese football, and helped to wash away the bad memories of Saturday.

Normally, I love going to Hitachi-dai, home of Kashiwa Reysol. Great stadium, no running track, spectators close to the pitch, and always passionate, occasionally amusing fans who make every game interesting.

But the atmosphere was not good on Saturday. It should have been, as Antlers brought a large following for a big match, but there was a bad vibe in the air.

The "flag attack" on Alex was disturbing, and resulted in a lifetime ban on a Kashima fan, but I thought the second incident was even worse. Once play had resumed, Reysol quickly won a corner on the opposite flank.

However, Kurisawa was unable to take it as the end of a flag pole was jabbed towards his face, as opposed to the Alex attack when the pole bounced on the top of his head, not hurting him at all. Kurisawa could have been seriously injured, and it baffled me how slow the security people were to stop the nonsense. Full marks to referee Okada for leading the clean-up campaign.

Antlers fans have shown this season they are ready to invade the pitch -- after the Super Cup at National Stadium -- and there were further un-Japanese scenes as a few nutters smashed on the screen and threatened to climb over. Super Cup invasion...offensive banner of Antlers fans at Saitama...Reds-Gamba crowd trouble...flagpole attacks....what's going on this season?

That's why Tuesday's JEF-Grampus game provided the perfect pick-me-up, with plenty of respect from both managers, too.

Just think, if JEF escape the drop, football may have a second Scottish "Sir" Alex alongside the legendary Ferguson.

Arise 'Sir' Alex Miller of Chiba!


Permalink | Comments (2)


Jeremy, I always read your columns with a lot of interest. But as someone who owns a Japanese passport, something bothered me in your latest entry: what exactly do you mean by "un-Japanese scenes"? The flag incident at Kashima of course was nothing more than an appalling act and JFA should deal with it severely and immediately. However I get the sense that you are projecting what you call your imperial "British view" on what constitutes "Japaneseness". As a foreign observer of Japanese football, I think that you should be careful in commenting on the said culture. (Which is by no means peaceful if you have any grasp on the history of Nippon.) Especially when you come from the former land of hooliganism.

Posted by: gooner | 09/26/2008 at 10:46 AM

Good Day!!! jeremy.footballjapan.co.uk is one of the most excellent informational websites of its kind. I enjoy reading it every day. I will be back.

Posted by: bad credit loans | 12/30/2009 at 09:08 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.