Mixing with Japanese Ultras

Author: Matt Foden

A couple of years ago – I went to Japan for a tour – and as usual I managed to catch a game! Japanese football first came onto the radar in 1991 when Gary Linker signed for Nagoya Grampus Eight and subsequently when Japan / South Korea hosted the world cup in 2002. In a highly populated country Japan’s fans have a reputation for being obsessive in their support but also very polite! The top tier league has 18 teams and is called the J League.

I was in Osaka and watched the game between Cerezo Osaka and Yokohama Marinos (Founded as Team of the Nissan Motor Company). Cerezo is Spanish for “Cherry Tree” which is the flower of the City of Osaka. Osaka is the known as a merchant’s city and with 19 million people is the second biggest city in Japan. It has a reputation as a city of 1000 trades – so maybe has much in common with Birmingham or Manchester.

The game itself was average – finishing 1-1. Some skilful play was on offer but the game itself was not very physical. As with all Japanese society the players and supports were very polite – with the teams bowing to the crowd at the end of the game! In the second half me and my friend joined the crowd being the goal and the “ultras”. The ultras were quite loud, but the behaviour was all quite staged and they didn’t feel very ultra! I managed to even have a go at waving the ultra’s flag. Highly unlikely to be able to do this mixing with say the Ultra’s of Roma or Red Star Belgrade I would imagine!

We look to get back to winning ways with today’s home game against Banbury. We have had a reasonable start so far – competing it every game and getting a very good result against Tamworth away from home. It’s clear for everyone to see that there is a jump up in quality in Step 3 football but I with 3 tough away games I would have taken where we are at the start of the season, and to be still in the FA Cup.