First off, shout out to Manchester United for dispatching Chelsea FC and moving one step closer to a record 19th league title. It’s been a great campaign this season and it’s on to Wembley Stadium for the Champions League final against Barcelona FC to secure the double!
If my opening paragraph didn’t give it away, I’m a
n avid rabid football fan. It is because of my fandom for the game that I try and see matches played by local professional clubs wherever I travel to. Seeing as how Japan is my current home, I’ve been searching for a club here to become a avid supporter of. My first experience at a live match was a rainy, cold November afternoon in 2009 when I first moved here. Seeing as how I still wasn’t familiar with the landscape here, nor the language and customs of the people, that experience wasn’t all great. I stupidly purchased a ticket for double the price from a scalper, had no idea where my seat was or how to find it (apparently I had purchased an unreserved seat and that is why my attempts to find it proved unsuccessful), and I was wet, cold and tired from the two hours by train it took me to get from Yokosuka to Saitama.
That first match was to see the Urawa Red Diamonds play at Saitama Stadium. Since they are called ‘The Reds,’ and sponsored by Nike, I assumed that they were the Japanese version of Man United supporters. I was wrong. They were more akin to Liverpool FC supporters took their nickname ‘The Reds’ to left-wing heart as they waved flags featuring the iconic images of Che Guevara and Lenin.
Fast forward to this past weekend. Over a year later and my Japanese experience is much better and I’m more enlightened. I know the lay of the land a lot better and I also know how to do better research online. Before I go anywhere in Japan now, I know to do as much searching for information as possible. So when I decided that I’d go to watch the Yokohama F. Marinos on Saturday, I knew I better do my research this time. Of course, for whatever reason, many Japanese websites still refuse to translate their pages into English despite the fact that English speakers are the most common visitors and temporary residents (sorry Filipinos and Nigerians, I’m talking about people who are here legally). Lucky for me, Google is a great reader of search terms and so despite the Marinos own website not giving great information for those illiterate in Kanji, I was able to find a website for English speaking F. Marinos’ supporters.
Of course unlike Friday and Sunday, it rained the entire day Saturday, but instead of being like my Urawa Reds experience, this time I was well prepared for the weather. The walk from the Shin Yokohama train station to Nissan Stadium was about 15 minutes. I love the feeling you get as a sports fan when you’re walking to a stadium, diamond, court or arena for the first time. I remember my first trip to Ohio Stadium to see my first OSU Buckeyes game with my father as an 11 year old in 1987. It’s something that you remember and it makes you remember why you love sports so much.
As the Tri Color Pride website informed me, I bought our match day tickets at the East Gate to sit in the home Northstand with the diehard Marinos’ supporters. I don’t care where I am, when it comes to football, my passion always takes me to where the fervent supporters sit, errr, rather stand for the entire match. Once, inside, we made our way close to the supporters area and were just about settled in when the rain really starting pouring like cats and dogs. A great thing about the Nissan Stadium is that even the die-hard, flag waving, chanting fans have a covered roof area (you don’t see that in a lot of stadiums). We went up a several rows higher and were invited to some seats in an ideal covered location. The match began and the chanting reached a feverish pitch for the entire 90 minutes as the Marinos’ players used the fans’ support to comeback from 0-2 at halftime to win 3-2.
Needless to say, I think I’ve found the team I will be supporting in the J League.
Vamos F.Marinos! Vamos F.Marinos!
With courage, a fighting spirit, and a heart full of pride
Oh- Oh- Oh-
Do you feel that going to a sporting event when you travel brings you closer to the citizens than most other things you can do as a traveler?