A very long time ago, in a land far away, I went to a football game. Japan 2002 – The World Cup Ecuador v Croatia (a terribly important game) in Yokohama. It was amazing. I supported Ecuador in the interests of geographic proximity. A few days earlier I had been to Toyota Stadium to watch the televised Japan v Russia game (just quietly, this was marred by a raving alcoholic flatmate – a story for another day). In that week I found out something I had hitherto not realised…football (or soccer for you Antipodeans/Americans) can really be quite exciting. It’s fast paced, the assorted throng is hilarious, in Japan people chant in harmony, there are hotdogs – and beer.
Another abiding memory of my time in Japan during the World Cup is my students – for the most part adults – being terrified by the concept of hooligans…generally English ones. The promise of these mad fans trashing cities, beating up the constabulary and running amok was all over the news and quite the conversation starter as I recall. I don’t remember any problems; it costs a fortune to get to Japan and even more to stay there. Promises of football hooliganism were happily exaggerated.
I have a point here somewhere…oh yes, I quite like football and one of these days I will go to a match in England. This weekend Fulham was festooned with flags and bunting in honour of Chelsea v Bayern München in the UFEA Champions Final. I get the feeling I'll be seeing a lot of bunting this summer!