I’m interested in the lengths people go to to watch & keep up with the J.League, especially those people who live very far away from Japan. In this new feature, I’ll find out from these “fans from afar” why they like the J.League and what motivates them to continue to stay in touch with it.
First up, the unlikely combination of a Scottish Oita Trinita supporter……
Where are you from, and what do you do?
My name is David Clements and I am a qualified football coach from Glasgow, Scotland.
What was your first exposure to Japan as a country?
I left the UK to go to Australia in 2008 for a new adventure. While staying in Northern Queensland in Australia I met my wife-to-be who is Japanese. I was always interested in Japanese culture and learned a lot about it from her. My first trip to Japan was in 2010 for 10 days where we would land in Tokyo and make our way down to my then girlfriend’s hometown, a small town called Kamae, a 2 hour drive south of the city Oita on the island of Kyushu. I was amazed by the glittering city lights of Tokyo and Osaka but it was something I had seen on TV so I knew kind of what to expect. What I enjoyed most about coming to Japan for the first time was going to the family home in a small rural town. This is where I felt the real warmth of the Japanese people and their way of life.
How did you come to support Oita Trinita?
Well, I knew some of the teams in the J-League, and what I remember about the J-League growing up was the colourful shirts.
I thought at first I would follow Nagoya Grampus as Arsene Wenger had been manager there and I was a big Arsenal fan, but then I took a small like to Gamba Osaka although I never had any connection with the club. When I was in Tokyo in 2010 I told my then girlfriend that there was a game on in Saitama that I wanted to go to and experience some J-League – that game was Urawa vs Shimizu S-Pulse.
I was taken aback by the great stadium that had held World Cup football and the atmosphere was amazing, but the only problem with me following Urawa was their connection with Manchester United and with me being an Arsenal fan it wasn’t to be. I enjoyed the game that day, eventually it ended 1-1. Once I was in Oita a couple of days later my eyes set upon the Oita Bank Dome. I knew that this was also a World cup stadium from 2002 and was informed that the local team Oita Trinita played there. As Oita was the town where my now family are from it only made it right to make them my team. I have been back and forward between Glasgow and Oita for the best part of 5 years now, one of the first things I do when booking flights is make sure that the J-League season is running and that I can make any potential fixtures.
My first Trinita game was in the 2013 Emperor’s Cup at the Oita Bank dome against Yokohama F.Marinos, I had been looking forward to the game as a legend of the Japanese game was playing for Yokohama then, Shunsuke Nakamura. Trinita lost the game 1-2 in extra time although they missed a good few chances to win it that day.
Last year I was able to be the first “Gaikokujin” (Japanese word for foreign person) to join the Saiki Trinita supporters club. I got on the supporters bus to go to the Trinita vs Fagiano Okayama J2 game, which we lost 0-1. I was by far the youngest person on the bus and when I handed out my business card that said “Soccer Coach” in katakana they were advising me to get a job with Trinita since we weren’t doing so great. The supporters bus was yet another great experience, and one of the members even managed to get me a ticket for the sold out Japan vs Tunisia friendly that would be a few weeks later at the Oita Bank Dome Stadium.
What do you particularly like about the J.League?
I like the the fans most. The atmosphere they create and the colourful banners are amazing. The chanting and bouncing of the crowd is, in my eyes, enough to rival any league. Being a coach I enjoy the respect around the J-League, that being from the players, fans and coaches. I look forward to the start of every season to see what designs the new kits have and enjoy the J-League banter on twitter.
How does the standard of play in the J.League compare with the league in your own country?
Scottish football has taken a real dip in the past 10 years. Scottish football was at a high standard for a long time but the more money has taken a grip on the game the more the standard has dipped. Taking that into account I now think that most Scottish Premier League clubs would struggle in the J-League now. There was a time not that long ago where it might have been the other way around, but not at at the moment. I think most of the J-League players are technically a lot better than in Scotland but the Scottish league might be more physical than the J-League.
How do you keep up with happenings in the J.League given the fact that you live in the UK?
At the moment, the power of social media keeps me informed at the touch of a button about all the latest J-League news. Also, the network of fans & reporters covering Japanese and Asian football on Twitter is really good with good insight.
In terms of watching games live the time difference can sometimes be a pain, on some betting websites they stream the games live so they can be watched. Unfortunately for myself, now watching Trinita live has become hard due to them being relegated to J3. There are a few good channels on Youtube that show the J league highlights throughout all 3 tiers, although I do miss the official highlights show that was put together on J1, I think that stopped 2 seasons ago.