There’s nothing more legendary than seeing something becoming worldwide, 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 eleventh 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 a good job in spreading the word for J. League). Twelve episodes are already in and the last one – which was published a couple of months ago – made us know Batuhan, who put his head and heart into the J. League (@NipponCalcio).
And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 13, we move from Turkey to waaaay North. In the Old Continent, Scandinavian nations have provided several players – even managers! – to the J. League. The commitment and the open-mindedness of people from that zone of the world are crucial to face and enjoy an experience abroad (e.g. take our interview with Emil Salomonsson, who played for three years in Japan).
And this time we move to Finland, where you can enjoy one of the most fascinating lands in the world. Known mostly in sports because of Winter Sports and F1 drivers (Hakkinen, Raikkonen, and Bottas surely ring a bell to fans), they also experienced a surge in football thanks to their recent participation in the Euros in 2021. And in this episode, J. League fan Teo explained how and why he fell in love with the Japanese championship.
No Finnish player in J. League until now, but Teemu Pukki would be a nice start and a fit profile for the league.
Where are you from and when you first started following J. League?
I’m from Finland. I can’t remember when exactly I first started watching the J. League, but it was probably around 2010.
Do you have a favorite team or player?
My favorite club is Kashiwa Reysol and my favorite player is probably Hidekazu Otani, the captain of the team.
We’re used to seeing 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 follow various Twitter accounts and opt to subscribe to the J. League subreddit, which is a solid help to getting news.
Have you ever been to Japan for some matches? If so, how was the impact? And if not, which match, and which aspect are you longing the most to?
Yes, one time. Back then, I went to see the J2 match between Kashiwa Reysol and Tokushima Vortis in 2019, when Reysol were playing the second division and won the title. I loved it. I like Japanese fan culture better than the more hostile European experience.
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?
I don’t think that many people care about the J. League here, so there’s definitely room for improvement with the image. If there was a decent broadcast deal in place, then maybe there would be some interest. Right now, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a hassle to watch games.
We want to thank Teo for the time he conceded us: he’s been a J. League watcher for a long time and surely you can feel the passion flowing through his words. You can look him up on Twitter, where he also follows passionately both the Finnish league and his beloved Dutch team, SC Heerenveen.
Episode 14 will come soon, so stay tuned!