Listen to the sounds of Urawa Reds soccer supporters
I went to see Nagoya Grampus Eight play Urawa Reds in Toyota in the J-League today. Urawa supporters, from the grim Tokyo suburbs of Saitama Prefecture, have the most fearsome and loudest reputation in Japanese soccer and it is certainly deserved from my experience today.
Urawa top the J-League and are on course for their first J-League title. Nagoya, backed by the wealth of Toyota Corporation and playing many of their home games in the state-of-the-art Toyota Stadium, should be up there challenging but tend to languish season after season in mid-table mediocrity.
Category 3 seats at 4,000 yen a pop were sold out so I went for the 2,200 yen "free seats" which meant just standing anywhere you could in the aisles or behind the main banks of seating in the corridors.
I spent the first half off to the side of the main flag-waving "oendan" (supporters' group) watching the rather drab, slow-paced football fare on offer, with the traditional soccer terrace smell of tobacco and beer oozing up from around me.
Urawa fans kept up a selection of impressively-loud orchestrated chants and hand signals for most of the first 45 minutes. One or two were reminiscent of a Nuremberg rally but on the whole just variations on global soccer standards.
Besides whistling Nagoya when in possession, none of the noise seemed to have much relevance to events on the pitch. This was a chance for mass karaoke and an opportunity to let off some steam after the working week.
After a half-time beer spent watching Reds fans in wheelchairs smoking cigarettes, I decided to brave the hard-core mosh pit directly behind the goal. Big mistake, this time. After a few minutes of watching the match, taking occasional photos and not jumping up and down along with everyone else, I felt an aggressive tap on the shoulder and was told this area was for "oen" (support).
I ignored that and carried on but a few moments later the abuse started coming in from both left and right. The guy on my right shouted "Get outto - oen ni jama" (Get out, your disturbing my support!) and pushed me in the chest. I staggered back knocking over the person behind me and decided this was time to leave.
Nagoya went on to win the game 1-0. I beat a hasty exit, not wishing to run in to any of the by now, no doubt, irate Reds fans I'd clearly incensed. Or did the result really matter? There was no obvious real disappointment or anger after Grampus scored, that you'd experience amongst football fans in England or Italy. The Red chanting just started up again with even more fervor.
I've taken photos in the hard-core zones at both Osaka Gamba and Cerezo Osaka, and though the fans don't like it, this is the first time I've felt physically threatened. I won't be doing it again.
The areas behind the goals are for committed, replica shirt-wearing, pogoing, chanting fans only.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006
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