Is it just me, or does the title of this post sound like that of a dodgy porno movie? What? Just me? In that case, moving swiftly on…
With the J-League season drawing to a close and me recently changing my holidays to the much more convenient days of Sunday and Monday, it’s been something of a race against time to pack in a few games before the Winter off-season.
My workmates Glen and Neil have always had Sundays and Mondays off, so have taken in a range of games over the course of the season. On the other hand, I was previously restricted to ‘glory hunting’ Tuesday night Champions League matches (to quote Glen!) and the odd dash after work on a Saturday to late kick offs in the summer!
I’ve been keen to get involved in these J-League outings – although not quite keen enough for a trip to Ibaraki on a hungover Sunday like these two nutters did a few months back – so when Glen suggested a double header of J3 and J2 action last Sunday I jumped at the chance. Believe it or not, I even stayed at home on the Saturday night so I’d be in top drinking condition the next day. If that’s not dedication to the cause then I don’t know what is.
Game One: YSCC vs FC Ryukyu
The day’s (strict) itinerary was set out by Glen who suggested an 11.45am meet at Yokohama station. The game between Yokohama Sports & Culture Club (seriously) and FC Ryukyu was due to kick off at 1pm but with the ground being a bus ride away and none of us really knowing where we were going it was decided that an early meet was better than late.
Having been in Japan for a number of years now I think Glen has very much embraced the culture punctuality-wise and found himself asking “do you really want to hurt me?” (ba-dum TISH!) when Neil rocked up at midday – a full 15 minutes later than arranged.
I stocked up on beers for the first half (#lad) whilst we were waiting for the third member of the group. Karma struck that particular chameleon when he realised there wasn’t a convenience store in sight near the bus station so had to traipse back to the same one I’d visited deep in the station 15 minutes earlier! You’ll be pleased to hear that that’s the last Culture Club reference; I only know two songs.
After the beer run we finally made our way to the stadium, bought a ticket for ¥1800 and got in the ground after the naturally lax ‘bag checks’. I toyed with the idea of buying one of the home team’s shirts until I realised that it would set me back a cool ¥12,000 which seemed a little steep for a third division team. We would be sitting in with the away fans for this game who had travelled in decent numbers considering their home in Okinawa is actually closer to Taiwan than Tokyo!
Glen had actually befriended a few of the FC Ryukyu fans on a recent trip to Okinawa so naturally couldn’t wait to namedrop the main ultra who was getting all the songs going. This led to one of those beautifully awkward moments where he thought the guy was waving at him so waved back, only to discover he was looking at someone else entirely! I’m still mentally scarred from the same thing happening to me with a hot girl at Leeds train station a few years ago, so I felt his pain.
As is often the case when I go to the football with friends the match itself is something of a sideshow to the drinking and chatting that takes place. The first half wasn’t much to write home about and despite YSCC being bottom of the league there were no real surprises when the teams went in at half time at 0-0.
The second half picked up a little and in the end FC Ryukyu sent their fans back to the islands happy with three points in their suitcases. If memory serves (beers + sun = hazy Jack) they took the lead with a nice finish from just inside the area before a late penalty with the world’s longest buildup – see for yourself below – wrapped up a 2-0 victory for the visitors.
With the game seemingly wrapped up it was time to do something I’ve criticised many people for in the past: leave a few minutes early! It was coming up to 3pm and our next game all the way over in Machida (bloody miles away) was due to kick off at 4.
After a swift exit and bus ride back to Yokohama station we found ourselves with 10 minutes to wait for the next train. Neil was in desperate need of a piss so went off to find a toilet whilst Glen and I topped up the alcohol supplies.
With just a few minutes to go before the train we were rejoined by a rather distressed looking Neil who had searched the length and breadth of the station looking for a toilet to no avail. I’d also had a quick scout around the area and thought I’d found one nearby, only to walk in on a bunch of mum’s changing their kids’ nappies. I’m not sure what they were thinking but I’m pretty sure a half cut foreigner with a can of 9% alcohol in his hand was not what they were expecting when the door swung open.
With a 40 minute train ride to come it was safe to say Neil was suffering, although this seemingly wasn’t enough to stop him drinking another can of lager on the way. Whatever takes your mind off things, I guess.
After a 40 minute journey (or about three hours, in Neil’s head) and a well needed toilet/beer stop, we hopped in a taxi from Fuchinobe station to Nozuta stadium for game number two!
Game Two: Machida Zelvia vs Roasso Kumamoto
After a 15 minute taxi ride we arrived at the ground and – after purchasing our tickets for ¥1700 (cheaper than the J3 game!) – got to our seats around 20 minutes after kick off. I was actually amazed that there’s anywhere in the Tokyo vicinity that is actually a 15 minute drive from the nearest train station, but Zelvia’s Nozuta Stadium is proof that such places do exist!
The scoreboard told us we’d not missed much as it was still 0-0. Yeah, more on that later…
That said, we could have missed the entire first 45 minutes and not felt like we’d missed much. Despite this supposedly being a step up from the earlier game, I’d have had a hard time telling without the prior knowledge!
With the score tied at 0-0 Neil and I decided to head out to the fairly expansive car park just outside the stadium to get a bite to eat. Glen somehow managed to get out of this but sent us on our way with an order for some ‘mochi mochi fries’. Basically massive chips not too dissimilar to the ones I had last year at the Kebab Grand Prix.
Neil queued up for a couple of kebabs for the pair of us whilst I bowed to Glen’s wishes and queued up for his fries. The second half kicked off while we were both still in our respective queues. I’ll give you one guess as to what happened next.
Yep, we missed the only goal of the game. I’ve got used to this over the years at Rochdale; it seems like every time I go for a pie it’s a good omen for the team to score. In a game like this though, where scoring chances were at a premium, it was something of a kick in the teeth!
Machida took the lead just after half time and never really looked in danger of losing it. The game petered out and the one goal was enough to secure the three points for the home side. Glen enjoyed his fries too so it was win-win all round, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Oh, and you know the bit where I said we didn’t miss much in the first 20 minutes? This video suggests otherwise…
The full time whistle went and for the first time all day it felt like we weren’t in a rush. We took a bus to Machida stadium where we took a leisurely train ride (with empty bladders) back to Shinjuku before rounding the day off with a several more beers at a rooftop bar.
In hindsight, these two games could well have drawn a line under the 2016 J-League season for me (thanks, inconvenient working hours…). Although neither game was a classic, I’m already looking forward to next year!