During the thirty years I’ve been attending football matches I’ve seen games delayed for injuries, floodlight failure, streakers, broken goals, overcrowding but J1 Matchday 14 added a fairly lengthy earthquake to that list. This wasn’t just any old delay though as it just happened to be at the most crucial and pivotal of moments in the game I was at between FC Tokyo and Kashiwa Reysol.
Before all that though, it was a race against the clock for me to get out of school after my last lesson and get the right trains to a place I’ve never been before. Luckily all went way better than expected and I arrived at the 50,000 capacity Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu with a few minutes to spare.
I needn’t have worried about getting a ticket as the stadium, which is located at Tobitakyu Station on the Keio Line, was less than half full with the final attendance given as 23,349. I quickly purchased a ticket for the away end for ¥2,700 and then managed to find a seat among a sea of yellow just in time to see the players come out of the tunnel and onto the turf. The ground was nice enough but I’m not really a fan of stadiums with running tracks as it means the fans are a bit too distant.
This was actually my first Kashiwa Reysol game since 2007 when I saw them defeat Yokohama Marino’s 1-0 at the National Stadium. That is still the only time I’ve seen them win as they fell to yet another league defeat here. Despite a fair bit of possession, Reysol failed to create a single chance in the first half and went in at the break 1-0 down though it probably should have been 2-0 had FC Tokyo not missed an easy chance to double their lead.
The second half was far more entertaining and two controversial penalties were awarded. Firstly, there was some kind of coming together with Morishige being inadvertently tripped at the front post by Miri even though the ball was going miles over their heads! The home side surrounded the referee for ages in protest though why the referee didn’t shoo them away, book them or just run away from them I don’t know!
Anyhow, Leandro stroked it home comfortably to even things up but it didn’t last too long. Minutes later Muto was tripped in the box and the referee pointed to the spot and yet again he was enclosed by remonstrating players. No sooner had the ball been put on the spot and I was taking a photograph and started swaying a lot….and it continued for a while before I realised what was happening and why it was taking so long for the penalty to take place. I originally just thought it was the stand rocking from the noise. There was an announcement on the public address system about the earthquake * and finally after a few minutes wait the kick was taken. Muto hit it fairly straight and it went in off the goalkeepers gloves! I have never known such a long wait for a penalty to be taken!
The home supporters were asked to stay behind for an announcement at full-time where it was announced that Chelsea target Yoshinori Muto would be joining Mainz in the German Bundasliga where he will join his fellow countryman Shinji Okazaki……unless the Japan striker moves to Premier League giants Leicester City who have been following his progress for a while now.
It was good to be back standing (in the seats) among the Reysol faithful and it shouldn’t be too long till I attend one of their home games. The atmosphere is good but very different to when I’m at Leicester City games in England with the songs almost seeming like a sideshow at times as they rarely reflected anything happening on the pitch! Don’t get me wrong as I’m not slagging it off but its just different to what I’m used to. The idea of a few supporters standing at the front of their fellow fans with a megaphone generating atmosphere seems very Japanese to me.
* The quake was an impressive 8.1M but given that it was nearly 700km beneath the earth and way, way south of Tokyo it had very minimal effect on Tokyo residents other than the major train delays which must have affected many people trying to get home from their night out. Thankfully, I was able to walk back from Shinjuku ready for an early morning flight out of Japan.
You can read about my recent experience at a Sanfrecce Hiroshima game here