Wednesday 12th February 2009, match day. The Socceroos were set to take on the Blue Samurai in a World Cup Qualifier match. We decided to leave Tokyo early and head down to Yokohama. First stop was Yokohama Chinatown for a bite to eat. As far as Chinatown’s go, Yokohama Chinatown is reported to be one of the largest in the world (ah, yes, this does not include towns in China)
Game time drew closer, it was a 7.20pm kick-off so I had to hop a couple of trains from Motomachi-Chukagai Station to Shin-Yokohama Station. It’s a 14 minute walk from Shin-Yokohama Station to the Stadium.
The stadium is usually called Nissan Stadium, however apparently during FIFA events the naming rights are not respected and it is referred to as International Stadium Yokohama. To me, the FIFA imposed name lacks thought as across town is Yokohama Stadium which is Yokohama’s main baseball stadium. How many ‘stadiums’ can you have in ‘Yokohama’ with the terms ‘stadium’ and Yokohama’ in the name?
Nissan Stadium was inaugurated in March 1998. It is the home stadium of Yokohama F. Marinos of the J-League. The stadium is probably most famous for hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Brazil. It has the highest seating capacity of any stadium in Japan, with a total of 72,327 seats.
Arriving at the stadium I headed to the South Gate amongst a big group of Green and Gold Army supporters. There were lines of Blue Samurai supporters already inside the stadium playfully jeering the Aussie supporters as we headed to the gate. This provoked the chant “3 – 1 in Germany, 3 – 1 in Germany, 3 – 1 in Germany…” Some footage embedded here:
The stadium was a sell-out with crowd attendance of over 70,000 people. I proudly stood with my hand on chest as the Aussie fans performed a completely out of tune rendition of the Australian National Anthem. Perhaps we need to sing it like this.
The game was a bit of a bore and I feel kind of sorry for all of the Aussie supporters who made their way to watch the boys play. Given the current economic conditions and the value of the Aussie dollar to the Yen, it couldn’t have been a cheap expedition.
I reckon instead of coming to see a game of football, they came and saw a game of chess. It seemed that tactically Australia were satisfied with a draw and were happy to defend to keep it that way. From a spectators perspective, a defensive game makes for a boring game. And I have seen my fair share of boring socceroos matches being at the Australia vs China match at Homebush last year and the Australia vs Iraq game in Bangkok the year before.
Outplayed for much of the game, the Socceroos just held on to secure a point and leaving them needing just a win and a draw from their final four games to book their place in South Africa.
We stood on the south side of the stadium with all of the other Aussie supporters. I didn’t wear any green and gold just in case Australia lost I needed to quickly blend in with the Japanese supporters. Ash (aka ‘The Japaroo’) on the other hand was a little confused that night. He wore a socceroos beanie and scarf and waved a Japanese flag.