A friend and I headed down to Saitama yesterday to watch a soccer match between the Urawa Reds and the Omiya…something. I forget the Omiya team’s name as it’s a bit strange and I have limited memory capacity.
It was incredibly fun. A former student hooked us up with a pair of tickets she had gotten from her work and invited us to watch with herself and her husband. While the game was good and a good watch, I think my friend and I were actually doing more people watching than game watching as the crowd was going ever so politely nuts. What I mean is, neither my friend nor myself are used to Japanese people showing much in the way of raw emotion. However, during the match we noticed that the entire crowd was booing whenever one particular player (Tsuchiya, 17) on the Omiya team got the ball. We asked about it and learned that he had broken the leg of an Urawa player several years before.
Think about that. He broke someone’s leg in a legal play, on accident, several years before, and yet he was still getting booed every time he touched the ball.
But to back up a second…
The first thing we could see, upon entering the stadium proper, was a sea of red. Saitama is the home stadium for the Urawa Reds and it was packed to the rafters with supporters. One section was reserved for the Omiya supporters, and the…uh, well, it’s “end zone” in American English; I don’t know what footy fans call it…was packed with Urawa fans wearing jerseys and waving flags. The rest of the stadium, save the Omiya section, was wearing red, too, but in the end zone, the red was completely unbroken.
The next thing to hit us was the non-stop chanting and singing coming from the Urawa end zone. They had a song for just about every possible eventuality. Including a song of support and thanks that the fans sang after the Reds had won and gone off the field. That’s right, the team was already off the pitch when the fans sang the thank you song.
And…I’m not really even sure what else to say. The whole experience was simultaneously so different and yet exactly the same as seeing sports in the U.S. that, yeah…it was good. I would definitely go again.