J. League Worldwide #14

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). Thirteen episodes are already in and the last one – which was published a month ago – let us know Teo, who connected J. League and Finland in one place (@scheeteo).

And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 14, we move from Finland to another country. And we must leave Europe, and move to North America, where you have one of the countries with the best quality of life in the world: Canada. In fact, one of the main cities, Vancouver, has one of the largest Asian communities outside of the continent.

This creates a chance to follow J. League and gets passionate about the Japanese championship, especially at a moment when football in Canada is finally thriving (also given the qualification to the 2022 FIFA World Cup). Four Canadian players have featured in J. League, but who knows if there’ll be space for more. And surely Christian Bucad, the protagonist of our interview, will be up to follow this adventure.

Where are you from and when you first started following J. League?

I’m from Vancouver, Canada. I first started following J. League back in 2015.

Do you have a favorite team or player?

My favorite team is Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but I also have a soft spot for Zweigen Kanazawa.

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?

There are a few Japan-based journalists on Twitter that I follow (like Dan Orlowitz and Sean Carroll, for example), as well as English-speaking fan-based club & league accounts. Unfortunately for me, the coverage about J. League is kinda non-existent here in North America.

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?

The only match I had the chance to watch was Sanfrecce Hiroshima v. Kashiwa Reysol back in 2016 when I visited Hiroshima. It was an evening mid-week game; therefore the attendance was quite sparse. I was in the supporters’ section and I tried to take part in the songs and chants by the local fans.

Apart from halftime, there was non-stop chanting, and it was amazing — I remember my voice going raspy by the end of it! I didn’t get to try the food offered at the stadium though, maybe I should have.

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?

Surely the conversation about J. League isn’t as frequent as it is over other leagues in Europe. You have also to think that the interest towards major leagues here in North America clearly occupies the spotlight with fans.

J. League itself is trying to build that reach with their international YouTube channel, with match week recaps and a live stream featured match per week, but they need to negotiate rights to have games on streaming sites like DAZN in North America.

We want to thank Chris for the time he’s given us: it’s nice to see J. League fans following the Japanese championship all over the world. You can look him up on Twitter, where you can look with amazement at his collection of jerseys. You can really see the passion for Sanfrecce Hiroshima! And his Instagram is available to give it a look.

Episode 15 will come soon, so stay tuned!

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