J. League Worldwide #16

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). Fifteen episodes are done, and in the last one – published roughly one month ago – we talked with Antonio (@APortillo21) on how Spain took the J. League by storm.

And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 16, we stay in Europe, but move up North. UK has experience Japan in a strange way since we can tell many British people are currently involved with Japanese football, but what about the other way around? Japanese footballers struggled imposing themselves in the Premier League… until last Summer changed everything.

Takahiro Tomiyasu is having the time of his life in London being a Gunner, but mostly Scottish football has been rocked by Celtic’s revolution under Ange Postecoglou. Four Japanese footballers have contributed to that, and a J. League fan from Scotland – precisely from Edinburgh – witnessed that firsthand. That’s why we talked with Hannah McCormick, who is enjoying a stint in Japan just when this interview is being published.

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

I’m from Scotland, and I became aware of J League in 2018 when I lived in Japan. But it was only after I returned to the UK and was stuck in the house during the UK coronavirus lockdown that I decided to start following a J-League team. I’ve always loved football, but it took a backseat for most of my teenage years. It felt really great to rekindle my passion through J-League.

Do you have a favorite team or player?

My favorite team is Kawasaki Frontale. I decided to support them because that’s where I used to live in Japan. And within that, my favorite player is Ryota Oshima. I started watching matches just before he got injured, and I remember really hoping he would come back because his playing style is phenomenal.

His determination to not give up on football was also pretty inspiring, especially when I was going through a rough time in my life.

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 am able to speak a fair bit of Japanese so I’ve made a lot of friends on twitter with fellow Kawasaki fans, and this means I can access news and coverage fairly easy! Now that I live in Japan it’s even easier of course. But I think J-League could do more to promote the league in foreign countries.

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?

In April I went to my first Kawasaki match, and it became one of the best nights of my life. We played Kashiwa and won, and despite the ban on cheering, the atmosphere was brilliant. Hopefully I can go to lots more matches while I’m here, and if I come back to Japan for a job, become a regular at matches, both home and away!

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 around the world, just like they’re trying to do?

Since Celtic FC signed Furuhashi, Hatate, Maeda and Ideguchi, a lot of Celtic fans have started to show an interest in the J-League, which is great! I think there is definitely a (to be honest racist) stereotype that the J-League is an ‘easy league’ and I don’t think this is true at all.

It’s a very skillful league that produces excellent talent. I think the league could try organizing more friendly matches with European clubs in off season, so they can promote themselves abroad.

We want to thank Hannah for the times he’s given us. It’s been nice to talk with her over the journey she went to appreciate Japan more and more. She’s been learning the language and she’s enjoying her Japanese return with a plenty of football, as you can witness from her Twitter account. Give her a follow: J. League definitely needs more fans like her.

Episode 17 will come soon, so stay tuned!


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