Even though baseball is considered the national sport of Japan, football (or soccer) is also very popular. Surprisingly, most Japanese football supporters, usually follow a team from abroad in the big leagues, such as the Premier league in the United Kingdom or La Liga in Spain. As well as supporting teams from abroad, the way that a lot of Japanese football fans choose their team also tends to be a little different.
In a country such as the United Kingdom where football is very much the national support, typically most fans support their local team or the team that their father supported when growing up, and that is usually the team that they will support for life – both when things are going well and not so well. A lot of the Japanese fans I’ve spoken to, however, often pick their teams based on a single player. Big named players who are famous internationally draw a lot of fans, especially if the player is also Japanese then a lot of fans will start to follow that team, for as long as that player is there.
There are still fans in Japan however who follow their local team with the same passion as those anywhere in the world. I went along to see a Kyoto Sanga Football Club game and it was quite an event! Before the game, there is a lot going on outside the stadium, much more than when I’ve watched a game back in the UK. Along with plenty of food and drink stalls, there were football training challenges for all the children to get involved in, and stalls selling the kit and all kinds of Kyoto Sanga merchandise.
Watching the game itself is a little different to seeing a game abroad too. In the majority of the stadium the crowd doesn’t really sing, it’s more of a family environment, although one welcome addition was vendors who walk around selling drinks (both soft and alcoholic), and we were lucky enough to attend when the weather was nice so it was a lovely day out in the sun, enjoying a drink while watching the game.
Close to where we were seated was the main supporters section and opposite them, was the same set up for the opposition. The supporters area was a bit more like I’d expect at a game in England. This is where all the hardcore fans sit and stand, and is where all the singing and football chants come from! Even though Kyoto Sanga is a small team, currently in the J2 league, there’s still some great spirit shown from the fans! If you’re in Kyoto during the football season it’s worth catching a game, and for the real experience try and grab a seat in the supporters area!
Check out their website for their next fixtures.