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Tokyo would have been ideal for Gamba-Adelaide

30 Oct 2008(Thu)

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.

ends

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Comments

Sorry Jeremy, but I have to disagree with you massively on this one! Home advantage and, in particular, the interests of the fans simply have to be paramount.

Can you imagine the furore if Newcastle United reached the semi-final of the Champions League (for argument's sake, seeing as the final is not played over two legs), only for the club to switch the venue to Wembley on the grounds of its higher profile and greater capacity than St. James' Park?

Even a team with the nationwide appeal of Manchester United would be rightly lambasted for a similar move. Southern supporters like myself know where Old Trafford is and cannot expect the team to come to us.

I appreciate that the positioning of football within Japanese and Osakan society is rather different to back in the UK, but the loyal fans here - as small in number as they may be - have every right to expect to be free of the 'hassle' of travelling anywhere outside of Osaka for their home leg. This being Japan, a number of supporters have trouble getting out of work in time for midweek games at the best of times, and switching the tie to Tokyo would simply make it impossible for vast numbers of matchgoing fans - myself included - to attend the final.

Yes, it will be nice to be the focus of Japanese football for a while - as I will blog about next week - but any Tokyo-based supporters and press can simply come down to Kansai. The Nagai idea would be a different matter, but while Banpaku may indeed be a pretty rubbish stadium, it is at least our pretty rubbish stadium.

(Incidentally, all communications from Gamba have confirmed Banpaku as the venue for Wednesday.)

Posted by: Ben Mabley | 10/31/2008 at 11:37 PM

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