Relegationistan in Autumn

It is a beautiful time of year in Relegationistan. Leaves are falling, teams are falling, supporter morale is falling. Looking at the foot of J1, we see more reds, maroons and oranges than we would in a usual autumn scene at one of Kyoto’s beautiful temples.

When you think of a “classico” – you think of Real Madrid-Barcelona, or maybe even the “super-classico” between River Plate and Boca Juniors (pipe down Kawasaki & FC Tokyo supporters, no we don’t consider the “Tamagawa classico). But one we may have missed was the “Relegation Classico” between Shonan Bellmare and Avispa Fukuoka last weekend.

Luckily for us, @AgentOrange2009 didn’t miss this one. He loves a good ol’ relegation slugfest, but apparently doesn’t like sweaty men who play Pokemon Go. Interested in what went on in deepest, darkest Hiratsuka last weekend? I’ll let the Don himself take it from here…..


Has there ever been a day that was geared more for me?

Yesterday was somewhat of a Relegationistan holiday as 17th place Shonan Bellmare took on table propping Avispa Fukuoka in a veritable Battle of the Bottom (Don’t google that btw.). Usually I would not be attending (insert your “perennially relegation threatened Omiya” rejoinder here) but Omiya had a match in Kumagaya against Kawasaki. I mean seriously, nothing exciting was gonna happen there…am I right? (edit – erm, can’t think of anything off the top of my head….)

I saw an old drunk man on his back going up the escalator as two other old inebriated people tried to help him up frantically. Was it supposed to be some sort of cosmic symbolism or was it just another Saturday in Ofuna?

When I arrived in Hiratsuka, I managed to eyeball a little mini shop for Shonan goods. You’ll be happy to know that I picked a wonderful hat bedazzled with tropical orchids and leaves reminiscent of one of the glorious Hawaiian shirts that transcendent dramatic talent Tom Selleck donned during his stint on the Eponymous hit 80’s television series MAGNUM P.I. .

Programme Series: Magnum, P.I. - (Series 01).

Instead of having the Shonan crest, the hat instead had an embroidered SB upon it. I’m pretty sure the SB stands for “Shonan Bellmare” but I like to imagine that it really stands for “Steve Barme” because a) I loved the show MAGNUM P.I. and b) I like to think of myself as the Oprah of English language J League bloviators. Do you think Oprah has hats with “O” emblazoned on them?

I made the mistake of taking the bus. 20 minutes of being grinded upon by the less than hygienic gentleman next to me who was enthralled with Pokémon Go. Could Apple make a waterproof version of the phone so the gentleman doesn’t have to choose between showering and Pikachu?

Three hours after leaving my door, I finally was able to get to my seat. I must have eaten something awful along the way because my stomach was rummmmmmbling! If there is one thing you do not want to do, it’s go to the bathroom at one of these ancient facilities. Does Shonan have the worst toilets in the J League?

Also, how hilariously ironic is it that their stadium is named Shonan BMW Stadium? What would be the proper automobile name for that stadium? Yugo perhaps?

The match starts and Avispa earn a PK off a handball. 30 some odd seconds in. Velaphi does his best but can’t quite get the ball solidly. 1-0. Shoki Hirai puts in a laser shot about 15 minutes later to put Avispa up 2-0. Shonan absolutely crumbles, continuing what I saw last week with them losing all steam after conceding a goal.

The game, for all intents and purposes, was done after the PK so my mind wanders to other things like “Are Avispa and Shonan actually the same club”?

Seriously. Both clubs are perennial elevator teams, going up, getting knocked down and struggling before going up again. Both squads were the feel good stories of 2015, with Shonan getting a top half finish and Avispa dominating the second half of the J2 season. Both lost their U-23 stars to bigger J League clubs, losing their defensive hearts in the process. Both have replaced last year’s goalkeepers with less-abled foreign keepers. Both have rosters dotted with attackers from Niigata, midfielders from Yokohama, and defenders from Urawa. Both have guys in 10 shirts who seem to stay on even though they might be better served moving to more ambitious clubs. Also both have decided that Wellington is not cut out for regular J1 starting duty after riding his goalscoring exploits to promotion in 2 consecutive J2 campaigns. Can you tell me the difference?

Pretty sure the “Relegationistan Classico” was fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things involving relegation. 8 points and a ton of goal differential separates both clubs from 15th place Albirex. Of the two squads, Avispa seems to have a bit of a pulse left. Shonan are in the midst of a 10 match losing slide being outscored 23-5 in the process. At the end of the first stage, they were 1 point behind a very sluggish Sagan Tosu…….that gap is now 19. Avispa has a clear goal left, win 2 matches and finish in 17th (or higher if the bottom drops out of Nagoya). that would give them the highest mark ever for a playoff promotion winner and something solid to build on for next year. What’s the goal for Shonan? After a disaster of a second stage in which the team is 1-0-11, can they possibly bring back Cho? And who could they possibly get to be better? J League teams tend to answer dumpster fire seasons with re-treads. You excited about Sekizuka Shonan?

We pretty much know who is claiming two of the three final spots. Who will be the third? Now that is a good question!


(* header picture taken from J.League photos)

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