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). Nine episodes are already in and the last one – which was published almost a couple of months ago – let us know Klimek, a Polish fan of J. League and webmaster of “Piłka nożna w Japonii” (@klimekp_37).
And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 10, we move South. We’ve had already guests from Italy, but apparently the J. League community in the country seems strong. This time, we’ve talked to someone who trying to promote J. League around the country, moving his steps from a small town near Bologna: his name is Emanuele Marlia.
Where are you from and when you first started following J. League?
I am Italian, but I have had the opportunity to visit Japan on several occasions, also living in Osaka for a whole year. I started following J. League for business reasons, as a FIFA agent in 2014, and I was struck by the potential of that championship.
Do you have a favorite team or player?
I sympathize with teams like Cerezo Osaka and Kyoto Sanga, but I am a fan of Kawasaki Frontale. My favorite player is Kengo Nakamura, an incredibly talented individual and Kawasaki Frontale’s legend.
Like all Japanese soccer fans, I’ve followed the career of “King” Kazu Miura with interest. This happened for two reasons: I had the opportunity to meet him by chance, and for what he represents for Japanese football. A true symbol of a sport movement.
How you’re able to watch J. League games? And how do you keep up with the news regarding the league?
Over the years the providers able to show the J. League outside of the “Land of the Rising Sun” have increased and for a couple of years I have been following the Japanese championship on DAZN.
On the social side, I keep myself informed mainly through Asian fan pages and Twitter accounts of journalists dealing with Asian football. Last but not least, I keep myself updated through passionate Japanese friends like me.
Did you have the chance of visiting Japan, maybe even attending a match? If so, which kind of experience it was? And do you want to visit the country again?
I would certainly like to go back to Japan as soon as possible. I still have a journey to finish, and I can’t wait for it to happen. I have had more than one opportunity to visit Japanese stadiums and experience real sports days: pre-match, snacks, football and lots of fun. An experience that I’d recommend to anyone.
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, both in Italy and in Europe?
Until a few years ago, talking about Japanese football in Italy meant being answered with techniques taken from the series of Yōichi Takahashi, Captain Tsubasa. It was seen almost as a parody of football; it wasn’t accepted as a growing young league.
Today the image of the league is very different because of the many champions who have gone abroad to play and demonstrate their skills. Football is experiencing a difficult phase linked to the pandemic and therefore it is difficult to talk about growth, but it would be interesting to see more co-marketing actions between the Japanese league and foreign realities, through social media.
It’d be useful to raise awareness that this is a serious league for football lovers in general.
We want to thank Emanuele for the time he conceded us: the passion over J. League can overcome the distance between continents. As he said, he keeps himself on target through Twitter, where he’s an active member of the J. League-sphere via @MANU1590BOLOGNA.
Episode 11 will come soon, so stay tuned!