Monday, December 11, 2006

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

Good evening, everyone (I'm nine hours ahead of you, remember?). I was considering writing a full preview of today's match between Club America and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, but then it occurred to me that it will be kicking off by the time I've finished writing it, so I've take an executive decision to jettison that plan.

Sitting here in the Media Centre at The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo (which looks like nothing so much as a bigger model of the gymnasium at the school which I went to), I am struck by the considerably greater number of journalists here this evening than there were in Toyota City last night. Now, Toyota City is an absolute devil to get to, and it has to be said that they didn't miss the match of the tournament, but I was surprised to see quite so many empty seats at the Toyota Stadium last night. It doesn't look as if we're going to see the same thing happening again tonight, though. The presence of big hitters like Branco and Claudio Lopez has seen to that.

I was up until three in the morning watching Arsenal and Chelsea battle out a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. It was nice to see Jens Lehmann and Didier Drogba auditioning for their places as pantomime villains this Christmas, but I rather think that most of these casting decisions have already been made for this year, at least. What is interesting is the difference in cultures between football at home and football out here. Out here, it's all about friendship, in that almost-slightly-nauseating "hands across the ocean" way that FIFA talks about things. I rather think that the supporters are supposed to leave the stadia after the match arm in arm, exchanging scarves and forging new friendships. At home, it's amusing to see the spit and bile that was accompanying the match played yesterday afternoon. From Alexander Hleb clattering into Ashley Cole in the first minute to Lehmann and Drogba pretending to have been knocked about by each other, there was no "togetherness in the name of football" on display at the Bridge yesterday.

It becomes difficult to take any of it seriously. Regardless of whatever Arsene and Jose were whining about after the match (and the good thing about watching matches that finish at three in the morning is that you don't have to sit through any of that guff afterwards), a point each did neither of them any favours. The only winners last weekend were the improbably unbeatable Manchester United. Meanwhile, out here in Japan, there is a bit of a buzz in the air this evening. It feels like, after something of a preliminary last night, there could be a real match on here tonight. I'll be back later to let you know, in my usual illiterate and rambling way, roughly what happened. In the mean-time, I'm off for a wander around outside the ground to see if i can find anything interesting to take photos of.


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