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Celebrating Supporters Confuse Police
The Korea v Italy Experience
World Cup Worries Blow Over
Security at Full Alert During World Cup
Japan Has A Ball
Watching Japan's World Cup opener with the ultra-dedicated "Ultras Nippon".

Celebrating Supporters Confuse Police

Photographs copyright ©2002 Kjeld Duits

Celebrating Supporters Confuse Police

Japanese fans scuffle with police. As the Japanese soccer team wins 2-0 against Tunisia on June 14 in Osaka's Nagai Stadium, tens of thousands of excited Japanese fans start to celebrate. Many of them have congregated in the park near the stadium where they follow the match on tiny TV's. Even though they are completely peaceful and don't bother a soul, police order them to move on. In doing so, they confuse and upset many of the fans. "They are overdoing it," says a 19-year old economy student. "I think the Japanese police are scary," says her friend.

As the game continues and Japan scores the first of its two goals, young excited fans climb onto the roof of a nearby public restroom. In front of excited fans they start to dance and shout "Nippon! Nippon!" While the crowd just laughs at the clowns, the police think it is no joke. A few dozen position themselves between the crowd and the dancers on the roof. Their stern faces show they mean business. Police officers shout at the dancers to get off the roof. Obediently they oblige.

Fans in Osaka party. But the police don't post anyone on the roof, and soon other dancers clamber onto the roof and lead the crowd in cheerful chants. This flow of events repeats itself about five times before the police start threatening to arrest the excited fans, many of them just high school kids who want to have a good time. By now the game has ended and the supporters celebrate a historic victory. However the police seemed clearly overwhelmed by the thousands of enthusiastic fans. "We had not expected this," confides an officer, as a number of scuffles broke out as the police attempted to disperse the crowd.

Cup Brings World's Soccer Fans Together

Japanese fans root for England. As the World Cup drew close Japan braced for the expected onslaught of foreign hooligans smashing up its stores and raping its daughters. To the great surprise of most Japanese the foreign supporters turned out to be by and large friendly people who love to mix with the natives. The Japanese have literally embraced them, often supporting the visiting teams as enthusiastically as if they were their own.

Japanese England supporters. England especially, with poster boy Beckham has been a home favorite. Just about every single woman in Japan seems to be in love with the English soccer player, and his name repeatedly pops up in female conversations. English supporters are the happy recipients of this admiration. "The Japanese love us," exclaimed one English supporter when their team faced Nigeria in Osaka on June 12. As if to lend credence to these words the England fans started kissing young Japanese women nearby, who were clearly overjoyed. Sometimes, sport does bring people together.

Text and images iKjeld.com

The Korea v Italy Experience

John Duerden helps paint the town red…..

South Korea has turned red. For so long, the colour has been unpopular because of its relationship with communism and North Korea. Now, however, everyone sports a 'Be the Reds' t-shirt. If you looked down from space, surely the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, just to the right of The Great Wall of China, would be red.

It's a balmy night in Korea. The motorway between Seoul and Daejeon is quiet for the first time ever. Everybody who is going to Daejeon has gone. The rest of Korea are either camped out in front of giant outdoor screens in Seoul or seem to be cramped into this bar just south of the capital.

As the confusion abates over who has reserved which tables, the anticipation mounts. Surely a football match has never meant so much to so many. The few with this pressure on their shoulders know that if immortality isn't theirs already, it beckons along with a quarter-final tie with Spain. There is only the small matter of the three-times World Champions, Italy to overcome.

Not that most of the Red Devils in this bar think the Azurri will be an insurmountable obstacle. Confidence is sky-high after Korea's impressive performances in the group stage. Faith in Guus Hiddink is as solid and immovable as Seoul's traffic.

The Italians certainly don't want a repeat of their infamous result against Korea's Northern cousins. No opportunity is lost to remind them of that game. If Pak Do Ik's goal was shown once on TV today, it was shown 1966 times and it stills gets applause. Just to rub it in further, just before the kick-off. the massed red ranks in Daejeon hold up white cards that spell 'AGAIN 1966.'

Every shot of the great man, Guus Hiddink, is greeted with wild shouts and gleeful imitations of his, now very famous, goal celebration, similar to a one-two combo to the stomach in boxing. The Dutchman, widely derided a year ago, is now the most popular foreigner ever. A troupe of former Miss Korea's voted him ' the most suitable husband in Korea' and business leaders are trying to convert his football leadership skills into business strategies. An excited fan told me that if Korea reach the quarters, there will be a Hiddink national holiday, the semis, and there will be a statue. A place in the final will grant him a stadium named in his honour and the trophy will bring with it the Presidency of Korea.

Even with all those garlands he still doesn't have hordes of teenage girls sporting the Hiddink hairstyle unlike the Golden Boy of Korean football Ahn Jung-Hwan. His shoulder length, wavy perm effort certainly looks better on the many girls wearing red t-shirts and downing the local brew. Faith in their hero is not shaken despite his early penalty miss. It is one moment his gorgeous ex-Miss Korea wife, Lee Hae Won, will probably choose not to include in her laminated scrapbook of her husband's career. His other female fans chant his name and the whole bar joins in. The chants of ' Taehan Minguk' ( Korea Republic) and ' Oh, Pilseung Korea' ( Korea must win) don't stop.

Well, they do, for a moment. Vieri's header stuns the audience. This wasn't supposed to happen. It is testament to Hiddink's management that Koreans are actually surprised they are losing to Italy. A team, that only two months ago, no Korean would ever have dreamt of beating. The chants start again, there is a refreshing atmosphere of happiness and gaiety. For many, the World Cup is the first time they have sat down and watched football.

And they love it. Why wouldn't they? Korea has had one huge party since beating Poland on June 4th and in the second-round, the limit of many people's ambition, they are giving the Italians a good game and are looking fitter and fresher as the game goes on. However, time is running out and it begins to dawn on the watchers that Korea are going the same way. That is until Seol Ki-Hyon twists in the penalty box to drag the ball wide of Buffon, into the far corner of the Italian goal. Two minutes left! The place jumps as one, drinks are spilled and normal Korean reserve is forgotten. Even my girlfriend is delighted, (usually, she only likes handsome players to score which is why she doesn't want Korea to play England as she fears she will cheer for Beckham. However, she overlooks her rule on this occasion.)

I think I am the only person in the bar who sees Vieri's stunning miss from 2 yards out, moments later. Everyone else is still hugging and dancing. Surprised gasps fill the room when the highlights are shown later on. No-one had realised how close they were to a defeat after coming back from the brink. As the final whistle is greeted with cries of joy and relief, I, rather hastily, tell all who will listen that Italy are terrible at penalties and always lose. This satisfies all concerned and I'm in the unique position of watching a game of football with people who actually believe that their team will win on penalties. I hope that I won't have cause to regret my remarks.

Extra time is tense, as always but Korea seem to have the upper hand. The Italians look tired and dejected as their tried and tested strategy of defending a one-goal lead has backfired on them. Totti's sending off is greeted with delight but it's nothing to what awaits. As Ahn Jung-Hwan climbs above Paolo Maldini to head the ball into the net, they must have heard the noise across the East Sea (never the Sea of Japan in these parts) in Tokyo. Predictable pandemonium ensues and of course my girlfriend's aesthetic goalscoring requirements are satisfied. I choose this time to remind her, a little gleefully perhaps, that she can never marry the Messiah because they share the same surname but even this doesn't deflate her joy. I will be checking under her bed for a scrapbook though.

The party spills out onto the streets. One of the biggest days in Korea's history ends with dancing and drinking into the small hours. And even better, Japan won't join them in the quarter-finals. Plans are made for Saturday's game with Spain. Some overenthusiastic men start to drive for Gwangju but realise that they are ever so slightly over the limit. Only Guus Hiddink and Ahn Jung-Hwan would get away with that.

World Cup Worries Blow Over

The highly-anticipated hooligan invasion turns out to be more of a peaceful takeover.

Red and white queens. Shop- bought cans of Asahi Super Dry in hand, scores of English football fans were waiting at Osaka Station for their train to the stadium. Here in Japan it's still considered rude by some to eat and drink on the move and drinking alcohol in public is reserved for down and outs but as the train approached, football fans and salarymen alike formed orderly queues and barely an eyebrow was raised.

Bu-kun, like many Japanese fans wearing England shirts for the day, had no cause for alarm or offense. "I met some of them in Starbucks earlier and they were very friendly," he said.

In fact, "friendly" has been a word used by both visiting fans and Japanese to describe, respectively, their hosts and their guests - this despite a media build up that predicted chaos and disorder on a scale not seen in Asia since the rampaging Mongol armies of Genghis Khan.

Back in the 13th century, it was the kamikaze or "divine wind" that devastated the Mongol fleet and saved Japan from being conquered. This year, with World Cup 2002 in full swing, a gentler breeze is blowing in Japan's relationship with its foreign visitors despite widespread predictions of a typhoon.

A 400-strong citizens vigilance group keeping watch on the approach to Saitama Stadium for England-Sweden had little to see though there were plenty of photograph opportunities for Japanese fans wanting to be snapped with the eye-catchingly costumed.

In Sapporo too, many locals were playing it safe. Some bars and clubs were turning foreigners away for fear of violence or communication problems. The owner of a car dealership situated near the stadium dared not leave his stock out in the open and had it all moved to another location.

While he was safely indoors on the night of the match he probably saw lurid footage of the Heysel Stadium disaster and rampaging mobs filmed during European competitions in the 80's as part of the pre-match build up on national television.

In the event, and especially in Susukino, Sapporo's nightlife district, English and Japanese fans were getting on like a house on fire - not setting fire to houses - and the highly sensationalist approach that had been taken by parts of the media was looking increasingly out of step with reality.

England fans in Sapporo. Though at times, the police have looked jumpy at the sight of large groups, the organising authorities have so far not been heavy-handed in their approach to fan control. On match days, the names printed on tickets have not been checked at all, defusing the potential problem of fans arriving with black market tickets and being refused entry.

Instead, tickets are taken without question by smiling volunteers, mostly young women, small in stature and all wearing matching shell suits. After the match they line up to wave goodbye and say "thank you" as you leave. Trouble? Not with the ladies around.

In the host cities after games, police have been mainly concerned with keeping a lid on a kind of Japanese exuberance that few had been anticipating. Male nudity has been prominent with already over 2,000 revellers stripping down and jumping into Osaka's Dotonbori canal to celebrate the successes of the Japanese team. Naked dancing in public has also been popular with the audience of one man in Yokohama scuffling angrily with police when he was arrested.

There are elements in Japanese society who are tutting just as loudly at young Japanese revellers exposing themselves and diving into civic waterways as they did at the footage of European hooligans repeatedly shown on the news. It's predominantly to the older generation living in small rural communities that the media's hooligan hysteria has been played.

The word on the city streets is quite different. Well accustomed to taking things in their stride, Osaka-ites - known in Japan for their own exuberance - happily mixed with English visitors to watch Germany play Cameroon the night before the Nigeria match.

Nishitani-san had just that day secured a ticket for the match and there was nothing to fear from the English as far as he was concerned. "They're different… I'm interested in the way they talk," he said.

"The Japanese are scarier. They're more…," and he made a prodding gesture with his forefinger. More likely to single you out? More likely to poke you in the ribs? Whatever he meant, the truth is that for those Japanese prepared to embrace the World Cup, foreign football fans are, at the very least, a source of excitement and curiosity and, when their reactions to Japan have been positive, which they have been in the main, a source of pride.

Dan, a Liverpool fan living in London expressed wonder at the helpfulness of the Japanese. "I've asked for directions in Japanese a few times and they give you these complicated answers thinking you understand," he said. "But when they realise you don't, they just take you there themselves. I've been so impressed."

A few stops down and a large group of England-shirted fans, many Japanese amongst them, filed out to take a connection to the stadium. As the train pulled away the chanting started.

"Nippon!" clap, clap, clap. "Nippon!" clap, clap, clap. The day's festivities were just beginning.

by Will Yong

Security at Full Alert During World Cup

Japanese police on duty during the World Cup.  Photographs copyright ©2002 Kjeld Duits

Japan takes no chances with hooligans during the 2002 World Cup Soccer. A true army of police officers patrol the streets and waterways of cities hosting games, herding supporters onto predetermined routes when they leave the stadium. The strategy of the police is to separate supporters of opposing teams. Not a single supporter is therefore allowed to stray from the route, cordoned off by thousands of police offers, gates, and ropes.

Japanese policewoman.  After the Russia Tunisia match in Kobe on June 5 many supporters were seen pleading with police officers and security guards to leave the official route. "Our bus is parked on the other side," many said. But the fierce-looking officers would not budge and forced the supporters to walk on, in the wrong direction.

Japanese fans celebrate.  Where possible, supporters must even use separate train platforms when they use trains to return to their hotels. The color-coded routes from the stadiums to the actual platform correspond to the color of their ticket. Everywhere, female officers with megaphones urge supporters in several languages to move on and not linger. Many local vendors are disappointed. They expected a bonanza from extra sales to soccer supporters, but in many cases shops could simply not be reached because of the crowd control gates along the routes.

Nippon! Nippon!  In addition to FIFA's rules of selling no alcohol in the second half of matches, this makes for very subdued celebrations after the games. Many England supporters were seen celebrating with bottles of mineral water after their team's important win over Argentina.

Although the police are understandably happy with the quiet games, complaints are being voiced by supporters and media observers that the police has gone too far, and taken much of the joy out of the Cup.

Japan Has A Ball

Sunday June 9 2002 Japan played Russia and won 1-0. While young hooligans in Moscow started riots, which left two people dead and many injured, the Japanese literally danced in the streets. Even in staid Kyoto young supporters of the Japanese national team streamed outside after Japan's unexpected win over Russia and had a ball.

The whole nation went wild the following Friday when Japan beat Tunisia 2-0 in Osaka to qualify for the second round. An estimated 900 fans jumped from Ebisu Bridge into Dotombori River in Osaka's downtown Namba district in a traditional gesture of celebration as fans partied throughout the night, chanting Nippon! Nippon! in the biggest single outpouring of exuberant nationalism since World War Two. Chanting the country's name has been considered almost taboo amongst the young since 1945 but the football fever sweeping the country has changed all that. Even foreign fans are joining in and donning blue Japan shirts in an attempt to join in the biggest party Japan has ever seen. Even David Beckham, the most adored of all foreign players in Japan is contemplating ending his career in Japan such has been the support he has received from Japan's new breed of enthusiastic fans.

Watching Japan's World Cup opener with the ultra-dedicated "Ultras Nippon".

Japanese soccer fans in Osaka. If some of the matches of this World Cup have attracted attention for not attracting enough attention, the same cannot be said of Japan's opening game on June 4. Ticketing hiccups may have meant empty seats on the day but the match could easily have sold out many times over judging by the scenes at the Osaka Dome public viewing that evening.

15,000 of the dedicated filed into Osaka's largest baseball arena to see their team kick off their Group H campaign against Belgium. Dense blocks of blue-shirted supporters nicknamed the "Ultras Nippon" had already found something to cheer about as Japan led Belgium 1-0 in a game being played on a Playstation 2 and being relayed onto three giant screens and a deafening sound system that had been set up above the diamond.

The contrast between the lower profile matches and Japan's games could not be more marked. Whereas Croatia faced Mexico in front of a crowd that took up only three-quarters of the 42,300 seat Niigata Big Swan Stadium, legions of ticketless fans will be watching Japan's matches on big screens in all ten host cities.

In Japan, football fever has been cooling since the "big bang" of the J-league launch in 1993. Football continues to trail behind baseball and sumo as Japan's third favourite sport and arouses only lukewarm enthusiasm in most. But not so when it comes to the national team. Team Nippon mobilises the masses even for friendly matches and the World Cup is what they've all been waiting so impatiently for.

Football strikes a very democratic chord in Japan. A good 50% of the crowd at Osaka Dome were women and children and none were excluded from the singing. The most popular song was based on "The Entertainer" and, far from being a string of expletives set to a popular tune, was wordless except for rhythmic and repeated shouts of "oi, oi, oi!" and "Nippon!". The risk of this kind of behaviour spilling over into football violence is zero. The only fear one has is for the throats of the kids who are approaching their 10th consecutive rendition.

Interest in "The Entertainer" only flagged when Belgium scored their first goal - an overhead kick between two napping defenders. A bewildered silence settled over the crowd like a falling parachute for all of three seconds while an appropriate response was sought. In an instant the entire crowd were chanting as one once more.

"Narazaki!" (clap, clap, clap) "Narazaki!" (clap, clap, clap).

They were cheering for their goalkeeper and, judging by the way that everyone under that domed roof in Osaka were chanting in unison, it was likely that he was getting exactly the same treatment at Saitama Stadium.

Singing the anthem. In Japanese culture, the quality of gambare is critical. It's the spirit that one needs to keep going and work one's hardest whatever the task. The ultimate crime against gambare is to let one's head drop. For a goalkeeper to let one in is simply part of life. For him to give up fighting is simply inexcusable. For the fans in Osaka Dome, it was just as important for them to maintain their spirit as it was for Narazaki to keep his chin - and his guard - up.

Their reward came with an equaliser after only two minutes. All hearts in Japan were willing Suzuki's boot forward to poke the ball home and complete abandon ensued when the net bulged. "No-stamping" signs on the floor were bounced on with abandon. The predominance of women and children in the crowd gave the roar a high-pitched harmony note.

The plastic fans being waved in the air and clapped in time were creating something of a breeze in the sultry atmosphere and it became a whirlwind when Junichi Inamoto put Japan in front with an unprecedented individual effort.

What ensued was chaos of the most regimented kind. Self-appointed callers were setting the chants and the whole place cheered in unison for the player of the moment. There was never any controversy over who that was at any particular time - all the fans were in complete agreement. It began with "Inamoto! clap clap clap" and then went on to "A-le-ku-su! A-le-ku-su!" for substitute Alesandro (Alex) dos Santos - Brazilian born but naturalised in time for the World Cup.

Belgium's equaliser was greeted with more anguish than their first but the crowd rallied behind their goalkeeper yet again and when the game finally ended as a draw, everyone was smiling. Stunned by a see-saw match, they tidied their litter into plastic bags and made their way home.

Having given their all over a full 90 minutes, fans and players alike will be thankful that they've already doubled their goal tally compared with France '98 and secured not just a point in Group H, but also, surely, a place for football in the national consciousness.

Will Yong

Nippon! Full On!
Music CD
CD Cover.

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