Watching J-League matches close to home is hard enough at the best of times due to work, family and kick off scheduling so to take in a game whilst away from Tokyo needs a fair bit of luck. Fitting in games around sightseeing, travel and other commitments is never easy but somehow I’ve managed to get lucky in Hiroshima (last year in Golden Week), Sapporo (last June) and Kobe this Golden Week can now be added to that list.
Under it’s former name; the Kobe Wing Stadium, three World Cup group games (Russia 2-0 Tunisia, Sweden 2-1 Nigeria, Brazil 2-0 Belgium) took place during June 2002 and furthermore it has been announced as one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. This was a bonus for me as I have an avid interest in anything relating to that particular tournament.
These days it’s known as the Noevir Stadium and never for a moment did I think that my parents and wife would all go to the game. The night before I announced my intention to attend the match and thought, at best, my dad may join me but unbelievably my mum and wife also agreed to come along too. It was actually my mum’s first live match for over half a century!
Still glowing in the glory of Leicester’s miraculous Premier League title triumph the day before (Japanese time) I was surprised to see Vardy and Okazaki shirts (fake!) being sold on the streets approaching the ground. A sign of things to come as my team go global! There was even a young Japanese Japanese boy wearing an Okazaki Leicester shirt in the stadium but before that I met up with another guy wearing the foxes shirt. That man was Alan a.k.a. Mr J-Soccer Magazine; the publication I occasionally contribute to.
He was in high spirits and as ever had some back issues of his magazine to dish out to the public on Star Wars Day and he was dressed for that too with an Adidas Star Wars Luke Skywalker tracksuit top.
The last time I went to Kobe was in 2011 and back then I never even gave thought to going to this stadium but these are different times and any travel away from home is cross-referenced with the football schedule to see if there is a match taking place whilst I’m in the vicinity.
The Noevir Stadium has a capacity of 30,132 but for the visit of Jubilo Iwata it was just over half full with 17.038 in attendance. My dad, in particular, was very fascinated by the jumping up and down and shuffling along of the Kobe fans en-masse prior to the 4:04 pm (yes, really!) kick off time.
It was an explosive start with a chance for Vissel Kobe inside 30 seconds and one for Iwata moments after that. The away team went ahead on seven minutes when Brazilian Adailton latched on to a through ball and tucked it away. It didn’t take former Kashiwa Reysol striker Leandro too long to level things up though and it was pretty much one-way traffic from there on as the home side romped to victory.
The scores were actually level at the break but the goals rained in after that with the game being put beyond doubt in the last ten minutes.
An 89th minute penalty kick from captain Kazuma Watanabe rounded off things in style for the home team and my family left happy with how the day had turned out. I don’t think my parents ever thought they’d watch a J-League match during their travels around Japan with us but they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Click on the links below to read about other trips to J-League stadiums in recent times: