The Grey Neutral: The northern soul is hurting

HOW the Class of 92 must be wishing they bought Bury instead of Salford! Interesting that Phil Neville has been pleading for Bury to be saved, a club that has strong links to his family. Like so many cases, it is only when a crisis comes that people really start to rally behind the stricken club. It’s the Woolworths syndrome, with everyone getting emotional about … Continue reading The Grey Neutral: The northern soul is hurting

GOTP Notepad: Kashima on the brink of glory?

JAPAN’S KASHIMA Antlers took a two-goal lead in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final, despite their coach believing they were too cautious against Iran’s Persepolis. The Antlers, playing in their first final, had to thank their two Brazilians, Léo Silva and Serginho for giving them a two-goal advantage on November 3 in front of 35,000 people. Go Oiwa, the Antlers’ coach, said … Continue reading GOTP Notepad: Kashima on the brink of glory?

Fanfare for the common team

DOUBTLESS the euphoria that greeted England’s penalty triumph over a Latin side schooled in the dark arts will have raised expectations beyond the wildest dreams of Gareth Southgate and, indeed, the nation. When England embarked on this “journey” (everyone is on a journey these days), a place in the quarter-finals would have been seen as “job done” by a squad relatively inexperienced in “tournament management”, … Continue reading Fanfare for the common team

Urawa and Al-Hilal win through to AFC Champions League final

WHILE most of the attention focuses on the UEFA Champions League, the other continental competitions have been reaching a crucial stage in their 2017 campaigns. This week, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League final’s participants were decided: Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia and Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds. Al-Hilal are arguably Asia’s top club at the moment and are in first place in football database’s rankings. … Continue reading Urawa and Al-Hilal win through to AFC Champions League final

Japan and the J-League – substituting the reserve

FOR A city with 14 million people, Tokyo seems a very quiet place. It is a metropolis of great contradictions, indeed Japan as a whole is a nation of great contrasts. Public transport runs on time with immaculate precision, but nobody speaks on the trains. At the same time, escalators talk to you, toilets warm your rear and squirt water into your nether regions, the … Continue reading Japan and the J-League – substituting the reserve

Antlers keep Japanese interest high

THEY WERE little more than the token host nation representative to keep local interest alive, but Kashima Antlers are now one game away from the FIFA Club World Cup final. The Antlers won their second game in the 2016 competition when they beat Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-final game in Osaka. This follows their previous win against Auckland in the preliminary round. It has been … Continue reading Antlers keep Japanese interest high

Asian football – the tomorrow people

WITH the forthcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League final between Jeonbok Hyundai Motors and Al-Ain on the horizon, football in the world’s most densely populated continent comes under the microscope. Since 2008, the global economy has been buoyed by the upward trajectory of Asia, with China and India both growing at a rapid rate. Recent concerns have focused on the sustainability of economies that … Continue reading Asian football – the tomorrow people

Japan braces itself for Emperor’s Cup Final

NEW YEAR’S DAY will host Japan’s  Emperor’s Cup Final between Urawa Red Diamonds and Gamba Osaka. As the December 31 fireworks fade away from the Japanese capital, possibly the first cup final of 2016 takes place in Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium. Urawa will be hoping to pick-up their first Emperor’s Cup since 2006 against Gamba Osaka, the holders. Between the two clubs, they have won the … Continue reading Japan braces itself for Emperor’s Cup Final

Sanfrecce Hiroshima keep the host flame alive

QUIETLY, QUIETLY, the FIFA Club World Cup kicked-off in Yokohama’s impressive stadium (left) with Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima beating Auckland City in the play-off to see who went through to the last six. Only 19,000 people attended the game, which Sanfrecce won 2-0. Yusuke Minagawa and Tsukasa Shiotani scored the goals, one early on and the decisive second 20 minutes from time. People ask why … Continue reading Sanfrecce Hiroshima keep the host flame alive

Brand-building with Mr. Muto

The globalisation of football is a fact of life. We watch multi-national teams that somehow manage to sign who they want regardless of any labour laws. The UK’s major clubs have been spreading their wings for years, embarking on money-spinning tours that enable, for example, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, to build their “brand” in Asia Pacific. Yet there have been only 23 players from China, … Continue reading Brand-building with Mr. Muto

Calling in on….Urawa Red Diamonds – passion of a different kind

If there’s a Manchester United in Japan, it is probably Urawa Red Diamonds from Saitama, which is a city north of Tokyo but part of the Greater Tokyo area. It’s not just because they play in a United-style kit, but it helps. The club is the best supported in Japan, averaging some 37,000 per game in 2013, some 10,000 more than the next best, Yokohama … Continue reading Calling in on….Urawa Red Diamonds – passion of a different kind