There’s nothing more legendary that seeing something becoming world-wide, property of everyone, global. J. League is trying to achieve that, but to do so, you need a global fanbase. And it’s there, although its numbers can certainly rise. In this series of pieces – which will all fall under the label “J. League Worldwide”, we’re trying to tell the personal and professional stories of Japanese football fans all over the world.
Before introducing the eighth installment of the series, I want to remind the efforts of Stuart Smith in starting this column (you can find him @Sushi_Football on Twitter, doing the good job of spreading the word for J. League). Eight episodes are already in and the last one – who was published a couple of months ago – made us know Geoff, an American fan now living and breathing FC Ryukyu in Okinawa (@OkinawaOzzy).
And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 9, it’s now time to move back to Europe. There have been several players coming from Poland to play in the J. League throughout these (almost) three decades and two of them are well-known in the championship: miracle goalkeeper and Vegalta Sendai’s guardian, Jakub Słowik, and newly signed striker for Nagoya Grampus, Jakub Świerczok.
Today’s interview features a passionate fan from Poland, who’s trying to create a conversation regarding J. League in the country. Webmaster of “Piłka nożna w Japonii”, Klimek Przybył is doing a great job for the championship in Poland, following the course of events from afar.
Where are you from and when you first started following J. League?
I’m from the southern part of Poland. Five years ago, I started to be interested in football in Japan thanks to the hours spent playing FIFA on PlayStation. I heard about the Japanese league for the first time when Kashiwa Reysol played at FIFA Club World Cup in December 2011.
Three years ago, I decided to start my own website about J. League and more on Facebook, under the name “Piłka nożna w Japonii”. And recently I bought two football club shirts who still play in J1.
Do you have a favorite team or player?
I don’t have any favorite football club from Japan, because every match with a lot of goals and emotions is enough to make me happy. In the end, every team could win the league and the national cups, if it was for me. All these teams have beautiful histories behind them, fascinating logos, shirts, fans, mascots and stadiums with wonderful landscapes. But I always support Japanese teams when there’s the AFC Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup or Summer friendly match against the giants from Europe.
On the other hand, my favorite player is Keisuke Honda. I started to watch him when he represented CSKA Moscow in Russia. I believe he’s an underrated player. He’s not a football celebrity like Neymar or others, but he indeed represents a great model for young and future footballers. I admire his activities outside playing football. He’s coach of the Cambodia national team, holds a few football clubs from around the world, travel and help poor people. That’s amazing!
We’re used to see a lot of coverage around football here in Europe or South America. A tendency growing as well in North America and Asia. How do you keep up with the news regarding the league?
I’m looking at news about football in Japan every day. Mostly I read the information from the official J. League website in Japanese and the posts of foreign fanatics of the Japanese league on Twitter. After the reading each news, I always translate them into Polish and then I publish them to my website. Without them, my football page would be poorer…
Have you ever been to Japan for some matches? If so, how was it the impact? And if not, which match and which aspect you’re longing the most to?
I have never been to match in Japan, but I’m planning to do so in the next future. This is my big dream. I know exactly how it must be pleasant living a game at the stadium: they create a familiar atmosphere, sing beautifully, and play various instruments. Especially on the drums, which can be heard while watching the game.
The times where you can witness an uncool behavior of fans towards a footballer or coach at the stadium is very rare. They are by far the most cultured fans in the world.
From your point of view, how do you think J. League has been perceived in your own country? And there’s a space to improve the image of the league around the world, just like they’re trying to do?
At the beginning, few Poles were interested in this league. I remember about 10 years ago Eurosport bought the rights to broadcast J1 matches and the population of Polish fans of J. League increased. It lasted for several years and then disappeared from the antenna.
And now there are many more fans, thanks to the moves of two Polish goalkeepers: Krzysztof Kamiński (he’s currently in Wisła Płock) and Jakub Słowik to the Land of the Rising Sun. They really helped spreading the conversation about the J. League; the launch of my page about Japanese football on Facebook contributed as well.
Unfortunately, I think there is not any chance that J. League will become the best league in the world. Nevertheless, J. League may soon find its way to become one of the Top 10 leagues in the world.
We want to thank Klimek for the time he conceded us: it’s nice to see how people are trying to push the conversation over J. League in their homelands. Like he said throughout the piece, he’s in charge to manage a Facebook page about Japanese football in Polish and he’s an active member of Twitter with the nickname of @klimekp_37.
Episode 10 will come soon, so stay tuned!