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As one season draws down, another begins (and then there is the World Cup!)

Photo © J’s GOAL

The Fuji Xerox Super Cup just finished, ringing in a new year for J-League football. Kashima Antlers won in a penalty shootout (5 – 3). It was a pretty crazy game with tons of turnovers and sacrifice plays. A rusty start to the season, but entertaining nonetheless.

2010 will be a good season for the J-League. Many Japanese internationals have returned to their home league in preparation for the World Cup. Hopefully that will raise the level of play here. I will be following Nagoya Grampus of course, with an eye to my old local side Kyoto Sanga and my other favourite Yokohama F. Marinos. This might be a good year for Grampus who Matsu predicts to finish in the top four.

My football story

Everybody likes to talk about how they got into football. I am no different, even if I had a strange coming. I am Canadian and grew up in a hockey family. North American sport consists of the trifecta of hockey, basketball and handegg. It is not exactly a hotbed of soccer fanaticism, as evidenced by the dismal FIFA ranking of my country.

I first started following football during the 1998 World Cup. A couple of years later I became interested in the Premier League. At the time I was living in Japan and became good friends with an expat Londoner who convinced me to support his local side, Chelsea. (I already admired Gianfranco Zola, so it seemed a good fit). I also began to support my local J-League side Kyoto Sanga. Though constantly bottom-of-the-table, their fans are excellent, real gluttons for punishment. Kyoto Sanga matches were the first professional football matches I ever attended. In the following years I travelled to see Cerezo Osaka and Yokohama F. Marinos. I started to follow Yokohama closely after reading a biography on Carlos Ghosn.

All this time I tracked Chelsea’s progress back in England, which was skyrocketing due to the influx of cash from Roman Abramovich. It was not a good time to be a new Chelsea fan, even though I was there before him. Nobody is interested in that technicality. Anyways, it was at this time that I met up with another Englishman — a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. I began to watch them as well, and grew to be a supporter myself. A few years later, when Zola moved onto managing West Ham, I started keeping an eye on his progress. This year, as a fan who has experienced years at the bottom of the table (Kyoto Sanga), and with my naval history interest, I felt a connection for Pompey. I know, very depressing.

As you can see, not having grown up footie I have a wide spread of teams of interest. Admittedly, I have not closely followed every team mentioned above with equal fervour year in and year out. But this year though has been good. I have been on paternity leave which gives me a lot more time to keep up, and even discover new ways of enjoying Premiership football like listening to The Football Ramble and Chappers’ podcast.

And that, spotty as it is, is my footie pedigree. I have yet to make it to England (only having gone as far west as Iran) to see a match, but I plan on doing so someday. Ideally, I would like to live in London for a few years. Not just because of my interest football, but for a whole host of cultural and historical reasons. My friends know me as somewhat of an Anglophile.

In the meantime, I will try and get in as much J-League as I can. If you are interested in Japanese football check out J’s Goal. If you would rather keep up in English, The Rising Sun News is the place to start. There are also many English-language blogs following specific sides: for example see Grampalogue. The foreign football community in Japan is small, but well-connected. A quick search around the web and you are sure to get your fill.