October 28, 2008: The other evening I was asked an interesting question by an Asian football insider. "Which stadium would be better to host the Gamba Osaka-Adelaide United match, Banpaku or Osaka Nagai?"
I must admit that I don't particularly like either of them; Banpaku because the spectators are so far away from the pitch for a ground that holds only 21,000, and Nagai because it is too big and lacks atmosphere.
"Neither," I replied. "I'd play it at the National Stadium in Tokyo."
My friend was quite surprised by my answer, and asked for some details.
"Well, it's a big match, the first leg of the AFC Champions League final, and I think you would get a bigger crowd in Tokyo than you would at Nagai," I added.
"But what about home advantage for Gamba, and the loss of this game for their loyal fans?" Two fair points from my colleague.
"Gamba would not have home advantage if they played at Nagai Stadium, because their home is in Suita City, not Osaka. As for the fans, yes, it would be a hassle for them to travel to Tokyo for a Wednesday evening match, but Gamba have many fans in the Kanto area. They always have big support around Tokyo for J.League matches and I am sure many of them have not travelled all the way from Kansai.
"No, put the match at the home of Japanese football -- the National Stadium in Tokyo -- and have a 7.30 kick-off. With all the publicity in the national media from the beginning of the week, I am sure thousands of Japanese football fans would come out after work and support Gamba.
"And think of all the foreign football fans in Tokyo, not just the Aussies. Japan against Australia at the National Stadium on a Wednesday night? Sounds great to me!"
So that was my explanation, and my friend was beginning to like the idea, especially from a media and marketing perspective.
I have no idea if the National Stadium is being considered at such a late stage for the first leg on November 5, and the Asian Football Confederation's official website lists Expo 70 (Banpaku) as the venue, kicking off at 7pm.
At the beginning of this week, though, Osaka Nagai Stadium was not completely out of the picture.