Back in the first half of the 2000’s, top English and European teams would seemingly come quite often to Japan to play some pre-season friendlies but then they dried up as the likes of America, China or even Australia took preference. Of course the UEFA Champions League winners have come to Japan when it has hosted the FIFA World Club Championship in December but the sight of such teams has been rather limited. Arsenal was something of an exception in 2013 though when they played Urawa Reds and Nagoya Grampus.
This year though Manchester City play against Yokohama Marinos (Saturday 27th July) and last Friday saw Chelsea line up versus Kawasaki Frontale in Yokohama. It was always “Frank Lampard’s Derby” in the media last year so I wonder if it’ll be the same now he’s returned to the place which made him a club legend!
Personally, I’ve never had too much of a problem with Chelsea and have actually enjoyed watching some of their European successes over the last 20 years or so. As a Leicester fan, we also have to thank them and Eden Hazard for putting an end to Tottenham’s title challenge on May 2nd 2016. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest moments in our history as it handed us the Premier League title during that tense run-in to the season.
I tried to get tickets for the Manchester City match but failed. Then, out of the blue, I got a message from an ex-student asking if I wanted to see the Chelsea match as he had some free tickets. What a stroke of luck! Home games for Kawasaki Frontale are usually played at Todoroki Athletic Stadium but that wasn’t really suitable for this game due to its capacity of just 26,232. Instead, the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama played host and 61,012 people were there to see it.
Where all these plastic Chelsea fans came from I don’t know but there were loads of them at this match. Given that Japanese people generally don’t ever wear football shirts as a fashion item, it’s not really ever possible to gage how popular the big European clubs are over here. In fact, many Japanese supporters often put their shirt on only when they arrive at the game! It is then taken off at full time and put in their bag!
There were a few Chelsea merchandise stalls around the city as that’s what this kind of match is all about isn’t it! I met up with Yohei and we went for a couple of pre-match drinks at the Hub where the chat was not so much anticipation of the game but his ranking of the Star Wars films. One of the first times I “taught” him we talked about his favourite film in the franchise. I like all the films but if I was to rank them then ‘Attack Of The Clones‘ (2002) would come last. Many fans would probably agree with me but this is actually the number one for Yohei! He is a true prequel trilogy lover and I respect him for that. Anyway, back to the football! Less Chewbacca and more Bakayoko if you will!
Another couple of cans were downed on the walk to the stadium where there was the chance to get a picture taken with the Europa League trophy which Chelsea won in Azerbaijan last May. The line for such an opportunity with 20 minutes till kick off was surprisingly short so we went for it although I felt a bit dirty for getting such a photo. I was told not to touch the trophy before it was taken which was as expected. I didn’t realise that included the bloody plinth though and I was promptly shouted at for putting my hands on it. I wanted to question this but had to smile for a photo and then decided it really wasn’t worth the confrontation.
We got into the stadium with just a few minutes until kick off and took our very impressive Category 1 seats along the side of the ground which should’ve cost us ¥9000 a piece. Sat next to us (not that I knew it until Yohei told me later!) was former Japanese player and manager Satoshi Tsunami.
Actual match details are usually kept fairly brief on Tokyo Fox but this one will be even shorter as it was quite a dull and boring game with very little action of any note. Chelsea were more dominant but failed to create too many clear-cut chances other than a Ross Barkley shot from close range and an Olivier Giroud free kick which was well saved by substitute goalkeeper Shota Arai.
It was disappointing for me that former fox N’Golo Kante didn’t feature at all but the forgotten man Danny Drinkwater (who played alongside him in that miracle Premier League winning Leicester team) did come on as a substitution about ten minutes into the second half.
The match was finally decided with four minutes to go as Leandro Damiao headed home having been unmarked at the back post. As usual I have included the YouTube highlights reel below but to be honest it’s not worth bothering with!
Final Score: Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Chelsea
Click here to read ‘Back To J-League Action In Kawasaki’
Click here to read ‘Attending Two J-League Matches In One Day Pt I’
Click here to watch ‘Late Japanese Sporting Drama’
Click here to read ‘Watching Urawa Reds vs Arsenal In The Saitama Challenge Cup Final’
Click here to read ‘Yokohama World Cup Final Stadium Tour’