There’s something alluring for me about visiting lower league grounds as this is the true spirit of football which is often lost amidst the glitz and glamour of the Premier League and the Champions League. Watching FC Ryukyu in Okinawa among so many nice, friendly supporters was a wonderful experience and when Hiro said he’d be in Yokohama for a match two weeks after that I thought it’d be nice to meet up with him again whilst adding another ground to my list!
Thinking the match kicked off at 12 noon I then set about combining it with another match and it became apparent that Machida Zelvia were playing later that afternoon. Colleagues Neil and Jack (him of Rambling Northerner fame!) were interested and we were looking forward to a double header of lower league football with plenty of time in between games to get from A to B. However, the day before I noticed that the Ryukyu match actually kicked off at 1pm but the wheels had already been set in motion and we were all keen to still do both.
We all convened at Yokohama station just before midday and Jack and Neil wasted no time in getting on the beers with some convenience store purchases to consume en-route to the ground.
Many buses stop close to the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium which is home to YSCC with the letters standing for Yokohama Sports & Culture Club (yes, really!). It was just a short walk from the bus stop and we immediately purchased tickets (1800 yen) and made our way to the visiting supporters end as that was my wish.
As is often the case, the actual football was something of a background event amongst the flowing beer, banter and chat on a bright sunny afternoon in front of a crowd of 824 people! It was good to sing some of the Ryukyu songs again too.
Whilst Jack and Neil left the stand to hang out with the mascot (presumably!), I wandered over to the corner to chat with Hiro and Aika who had both come on day return trips from Naha! That’s extreme dedication for you!
FC Ryukyu were on top in the first half and their goalkeeper was never really tested not that too many testing shots were reigning down at the other end. The breakthrough came in the second half and a late penalty rounded off a victory for the away team at the bottom team.
I’ve never been one to exit before the full time whistle but as we needed to get a bus back to the station, we departed as the game went into injury time in order to take the train on to Machida for our second game of the day.
Final Score: YSCC 0-2 FC Ryukyu
Back at Yokohama station, Neil needed a toilet but could not find one and due to our strict time constraints he had no real choice but to board the train and hold it in for another 35 minutes on the ride to Machida and then to Fuchinobe. When you need to go so desperately that is an absolute eternity! Despite all that, he still continued to chug back more beer as he and Jack were on a mission to drink all day long!
As we arrived at the nearest station at around kick off time we decided a taxi (2000 yen) to the stadium, which was quite far away, was the best option. 15-20 minutes later and we were dropped off at an empty stadium which was all a bit strange but I guess that’s what it’s like when the game is long underway! We bought our tickets (1700 yen each and surprisingly there was actually someone else purchasing one that late too!) and walked round the stadium to finally enter. The welcome by the staff on the gate was possibly the friendliest welcome I’ve received at any stadium!
We took our seats in the corner behind the goal and at 0-0 it seemed like we hadn’t missed much but the following day I saw some highlights online and it turned out that we actually missed a penalty save!
The Machida Athletic Stadium is a bit of a strange one with just a single big stand which was not full and didn’t even seem to possess as many seats as a stand of that size should! The rest of the ground was low terraced seating with a running track and a very visible forest on all sides. Omiya and Kashiwa may be located in parks but the trees aren’t visible once you’re inside those more traditional rectangular shaped grounds.
It remained 0-0 at half time and Neil and Jack went to get some food including my request for some long mochi fries. Both of them missed the only goal of the game on 47 minutes and a fine finish it was too in a game severely lacking in entertainment value. Jack too ages getting back due to my fries taking a long time!! It was a slightly tense finish for the home team but they managed to hold on for important win in front of a crowd of 4,218.
Final Score: Machida Zelvia 1-0 Roasso Kumamoto
At the final whistle we headed for the car park and took a bus back to Machida station followed by a train to Shinjuku where we went to a Mongolian rooftop bar in Kabukicho for a couple more hours of drinking!
Click here to read ‘Three Guys, Two Games, One Day’ courtesy of Rambling Northerner