Youth Team Regular
Nov 19, 2019, 10:34 AM
Post #1 of 1
Japanese J League - Division Two (J2)
Kyoto Sanga v JEF United Chiba 1-0 (ht 0-0)
Venue: Yakebishi Stadium, Nishikyogoku Sports Centre, Kyoto; kickoff 1400hrs
Entry: 4100 Yen, free programme
Tickets bought and printed online from the official J-League website about three and a half weeks before the game. All areas are seated but one area apparently allows "standing and shouting " so I avoided that and chose the main stand. An email provided a url which took me to another url which took me to the pdf. This was virtually all in Japanese so I needed an online translation app to work out our gate, block, row and seats.
Kyoto has a comprehensive transport system with various private companies running train lines, so it can be somewhat confusing at first. There are few return tickets available, and day passes don't cover all routes, so you often end up buying a single ticket for each leg which can become expensive. Luckily we could walk to the Hankyu line and go straight to Nishikyogoku station which is adjacent to the sports centre. The first set of enormous floodlights belong to the baseball stadium. The stalls selling merchandise and really good food (and average beer) lead you towards the football stadium which has its own large inverted triangular floodlights. Today was Kyoto's last game of the season and the atmosphere was carnival-like, with lots activities for kids, although I suspect it may be similar for all games. And any concerns about taking bags and drinks into the ground were soon dispelled as virtually everybody had a bag and there were drinks vending machines at the entrance gates. Most of the stewards were elderly ladies who were meticulous in guiding people to their seats and also to the correct recycling bin.
The ground Is a large bowl with a running track around the pitch and the main stand's roof is so small as to be ineffectual. The home end was in full voice with a drummer and cymbals leading the singing throughout the game. At the other end a good smattering of Chiba fans tried hard to respond in kind. An enormous flag was unfurled that covered most of the popular end just before kickoff. The players were welcomed onto the pitch by cheerleaders and other paraphernalia, but then had to wait for a walking advert to take the limelight before they could bow to the crowd and break formation to warm up.
While the popular ends kept up a wall of noise throughout, our area was much more demure with only the politest of reactions and only murmurs of encouragement. They were, however, encouraged to clap for home corners which they duly did. The home team, who needed a win to keep their outside chances of a playoff place alive, struggled early on and were dominated by a lively Chiba side. However, when Kyoto did break out they looked more likely to score. It was still evenly poised until midway through the second half when various substitutions started to take effect and Kyoto finally applied enough pressure to hit the bar and soon afterwards score the crucial goal on 84 minutes. This actually brought a few of the main stand to their feet while the popular end provided the more robust response.
At the end of the game I wasn't sure that the final whistle had actually been blown as it wasn't met with a collective cheer. The players bowed to the crowd before shaking each others hands. And the crowd didn't leave straightaway as they waited to see the on-pitch interviews and the players leave the pitch. As we passed the back of the popular end it was still fully occupied and they were still checking tickets to enter the enclosure, so we couldn't go in to experience the fun.
It might have been Championship prices but it was definitely not Championship standard of football. And the experience
was an odd mixture of familiar football match experiences and Japanese reserve and order. Maybe too 'nice' for some, but definitely an enjoyable experience. I'll have to re-acclimatise to the foul-mouthed aggression on our terraces when I return from here.