J. League Worldwide #18

There’s nothing more legendary than seeing something becoming a worldwide attraction, the property of everyone, globally. 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). Seventeen episodes are done, and in the last one – published before the end of 2022 – we talked with Harry (@harryjleague) about his love for the Japanese football world.

And if you can read here his interview with us, for Episode number 18, we stay in England, but with the acknowledgment of a person who moved to the other side of the world for developing his life. He comes from Kent, but now enjoys the sunny weather of Western Australia. Weather is particularly sunny in these days of Summer since seasons are inverted over here.

His heart was divided between the Red Devils and the Gills, but now beats for Avispa Fukuoka, due to a connection in his personal life. Daniel Hawkins was nice enough to have time for us, and we talked with him in this new installment of the column.

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

I’m originally from Kent in south-east England, but now I live in Western Australia. I’ve been a football fan since a young age, supporting Manchester United and my local team, Gillingham FC. I first became aware of the J.League when Gary Lineker moved to Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1992, but other than that I didn’t know much about Japanese football.

I really began following football in Japan over the last five or so years after meeting my now wife who is from Fukuoka. Although her family is made more of baseball fans, I thought I should support their local football team, Avispa.

Do you have a favorite team or player?

I support Avispa Fukuoka and generally like to see Kyushu teams do well. I was, well still am, a big Emil Salomonsson fan, but unfortunately, he has returned to Sweden with IFK Goteborg. He still follows Avispa and often tweets support to his former teammates!

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?

Optus Sport has the rights to show live J1 games in Australia, therefore I subscribe to their streaming service – over an average weekend, they show 3-4 live games. I also catch up on highlights through the J.League International YouTube channel. But by far the best resource is the J-Talk podcast for J1 news and J-Talk Extra Time for all things J2 and J3.

As a Patreon of J-Talk, I’m also a member of the J-Talk Line group, which is great fun, plus I learn a lot!

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?

My first game was a few years ago in May 2018 to watch Avispa v Montedio Yamagata in J2 League. It holds a special place as it was a few months after my daughter was born and my dad came from the UK and met us in Japan. My Dad and I went to watch Avispa and I remember both of us loving it. I can’t wait to go back to Japan next year and go to a few Avispa games, hopefully in J1!

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?

I think in Australia, the main focus by a long way is on the EPL, with maybe La Liga as a distant second. Football (soccer) really is a long way behind Aussie Rules (AFL) Rugby League in terms of media coverage and even the A-League here doesn’t get enough recognition. I expect most people wouldn’t know about the J.League at all.

I think the J.League being shown live on Optus Sports is a positive thing so hopefully, the audience will grow, all be it from a low base. I think the J.League could do more to promote their YouTube channel, and I don’t think they help themselves by doing things such as suddenly stopping uploading the J3 weekly highlights.

We want to thank Daniel for the time he’s given us. It’s been nice to talk with him and it’s incredible to see how the journey has been from England to Australia, going through Japan. Follow him on his Twitter account. Avispa Fukuoka will be one team to watch in 2023.

Episode 19 should come next month, so stay tuned!


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