On the back of a hugely successful Rugby World Cup 2019, there was a lot of anticipation about this year’s Top League which began in January. Until the Corona Virus hit, I was planning on going to see some games and one club I was interested in watching was NEC Green Rockets just because I had seen them play in Tokyo against Johnny Wilkinson’s Newcastle Falcons way back in 2005. Little did I know that they were a Chiba-based team and occasionally play some home games at a stadium in Kashiwa. Not the Hitachi Stadium though!
Many J-League clubs have secondary stadiums which might be used for so-called lesser games such as friendlies, League Cup matches or in some cases because the alternative stadium is bigger than the regular one and can thus accommodate more fans than usual.
As I was returning from Tsukuba earlier this year I noticed the names of one of the stations we passed through was called Kashiwanoha-campus. I’m really not so familiar with the Tsukuba Express Line and what stations are on it. There was something about that first name though (not just the Kashiwa part!) which rang a bell and then I realised I had actually seen Kashiwa Reysol play a league match at Kashiwanoha Stadium way back in 2004.
A few weeks later I took a quick detour to see the controversial “other” home stadium that was hated by so many Reysol fans. Before even seeing the stadium, it’s quite easy to see why it was unpopular as just getting to it’s location isn’t easy. From the west exit of the station it was about a 30 minute walk. Madness really that I even went there without any match to see but thankfully it was a fine day and the surrounding park was a very nice pleasant place to wander around too.
Back in the old days of getting camera film developed I used to write the date and some details on the back of the photographs. It’s thanks to that information that I remember anything at all about this match experience. The excellent transfermarkt.com website certainly helped fill in a few blanks!
Along with friend Peter, we took a bus on the west side of Kashiwa Station and about 25 minutes later was at the stadium which is located in the north-west of Kashiwa city. It really was not a convenient place to get to, especially when compared with the Hitachi Stadium, where we’d been a few months before for our first J-League experience.
Yokohama F. Marinos were the visitors on Saturday 19th June 2004. I do recall that they had Korean World Cup 2002 sensation Ahn Jeong-Hwan playing for them and I was quite interested to see him play but I didn’t want him to score…… which of course is exactly what he did when they went two nil up around the hour mark! Reysol got a goal back but it wasn’t enough and were defeated 2-1 in front of a crowd of just over 10,000.
Back in the modern day I walked around the Kashiwanoha Park Stadium and took a peak inside to see the athletic track circling the pitch which fans said prevented them from having a good view of the game and creating a proper atmosphere too. I guess I expected it to be a bit more run-down and derelict but it’s actually in good condition as it’s still regularly used which I didn’t realise beforehand. Athletics and local rugby matches are held here. NEC Green Rockets occasionally use it in the Top League and Kantō Soccer League team Briobecca Urayasu also use the ground from time to time when they’re not playing right next to Tokyo Disneyland!
Local authorities drew up plans for this stadium in 1992 with the idea that Reysol would relocate from their smaller and older Hitachi Stadium (now officially known as the Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium) where the majority of the ground has no roofing and is thereby open to the elements. Fully covered stands really are not so common for such municipal stadia in Japan so that was supposed to be one of the big advantages to playing at Kashiwanoha. Another benefit would be the increased capacity which was about 4000 more than at the Hitachi Stadium!
Construction began in 1995 and four years later it was used for the first time on Saturday 24th April as Reysol defeated Urawa Red Diamonds 3-1 in front of 15,849 people with the final goal scored by legendary Bulgarian striker Hristo Stoichkov. However, the fans were strongly against the stadium from the offset (due to some of the aforementioned reasons) and displayed banners to vent their frustrations.
It was last used in 2008 on Sunday 2nd November for a victorious 1-0 Fourth Round Emperors Cup game against Thespa Kusatsu (now known as Thespakusatus Gunma) which was seen by a paltry crowd of just 4,596 people!
In their true home for every match of the 2009 season it promised to be a great season with their passionate fans always in close proximity to the pitch helping push them back up the J1 table. Well not quite as they were relegated that season! Thankfully though that was followed by their greatest days over the following two remarkable seasons where they won consecutive J1 and J2 titles.
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10…… J1 League Stadiums You Should Visit This Season’
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