After all these years in Tokyo I pretty much assumed I was the only Foxes fan around here and it was hard enough just trying to find a Japanese person who had even heard of the city of Leicester or Resuta (レスター) as they call it. Back in 2010, I thought the signing of Yuki Abe would make my home city known here but it never quite materialised. However, a few things in the recent years have helped to raise awareness of the place. First, there was the story of Richard III (King of England between 1483 and 1485), then Princess Mako (a member of the Japanese Imperial family) went to the University of Leicester to study museology and finally last June the Japanese international striker Shinji Okazaki signed for Leicester City in a £7m switch from Mainz in the Bundasliga.
In the wake of that last news, my tweets about the Foxes were proving something of a hit in Tokyo and there were two guys, in particular, who were retweeting and commenting. Over the months we exchanged tweets and messages and I soon realised that Leicester City actually did have something of a following.
Games are never at such a convenient time over here to socialise and watch them together but I said that we should all meet up when BT Sport finally got round to showing one of our games in the early match (21:45 kick off Japan time) on a Saturday. At Christmas time they announced that they’d be showing the Manchester City away game on February 6th so I instantly mailed a few Foxes fans to see if there’d be any interest in getting together.
From there on, “Koma” took over the planning and organising and so it was that 30+ (yes, really!) Leicester fans congregated on Saturday evening in British bar ‘The Hub’ in Nishi-Shinjuku. The number probably wouldn’t have been so big had we been in the same position as this time last season when we were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. However, news of Leicester’s miraculous success this season is starting to spread around the world and now we finally have something of a Tokyo event to add to the collection.
Having arrived at 9pm we paid ¥3000 each (4 drink tickets plus a selection of food) and were each given ID badges. Sadly, I didn’t get to meet and chat with everyone that came as the kick off approached fast and after the game most people had to exit fairly quickly to get the last train home.
On the back of a fine performance at home to Liverpool in midweek (including one of the best City goals of all time), spirits were high but in my pessimistic view I thought it was typical that this event had to be for an away match against the team many people think will win the title. I really shouldn’t have worried as this current Leicester team is playing such entertaining football and we got off to the perfect start inside three minutes as Robert Huth opened the scoring. I’d have settled for a draw beforehand so when we went 2-0 and then 3-0 up we really were in dreamland and to come away with such a convincing win (it finished 3-1) really was unbelievable.
Back home, I’d imagine I might be getting slightly annoyed by bandwagon jumpers taking tickets away from the real supporters who have followed the team through thick and thin, but over here it’s different and very much about spreading the word. The more the merrier and thankfully we won’t have to wait too long for our next meeting as Arsenal away on Valentines Day Sunday is also a TV match. As for this one, may well be the pivotal moment when many people finally started to believe that Leicester can actually win the Premier League title. There’s still a long way to go yet and I’m trying my best to not get too carried away.