October 29, 2007

Urawa Reds v Nagoya Grampus

I met up with Max last night and we went to see Urawa play in Saitama. This is the first time I have been to a J League match, although it is the third time I have been to Saitama Stadium 2002, which is a very cool place to watch football.

Here is the view from our seats:

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It is much more crowded than I thought it would be and there is not really much food available inside the stadium. There were tons of booths lining the path to the ground, but we ignored them. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake.

Anyway, our seats were almost at the top of the stand...I suppose that is what happens when you buy your tickets at the last minute. On the other hand, I was lucky as I checked a few of the remaining fixtures today and they are already sold out.

After the match, we sat out at the tables in front and had a beer as we waited for the crowds going to the station to thin out a bit. It was really festive and good fun. And...completely different from Tokyo. I tried to get a picture of the stadium from our outdoor table, but it is not looking so good. Whoops.

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Oh, by the way, the match was a scoreless draw.

Posted by Kirk at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2005

England qualifies for WC 2006

Well, they did it. England managed to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany next summer, topping Austria 1-0 and assisted by the Dutch beating the Czechs in Prague.

_40888588_lamps300.jpgFrank Lampard sealed the victory with a penalty kick in the first half after Michael Owen was held in the box. A ridiculous penalty by Austria, but what do you expect. That is a professional view of the kick to the left.

Beckham was unfairly sent off after getting two yellow cards in two minutes...apparently not the first time the Spanish ref has done this. In any case, it was thoroughly undeserved - the referee was a complete idiot. Owen was also robbed of a sure penalty kick in the box after a clanging tackle, which the ref also missed.

Having said all that, England should have put the game away in the first half. They won't go very far in Germany if they play the way they have over the last month.

Posted by Kirk at 06:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2005

NEC Harlequins 27 Doncaster 7

Yesterday was a rugby day - we seem to be alternating between that and football each weekend. We headed over to Twickenham Stoop to watch one of the famous London sides (surprisingly relegated last season) take on Doncaster in a Division One match. Harlequins came away the winners, but they had to work for it (or so I am told, I still cannot quite figure it out).

The good news for me is that I think I may have finally got a decent picture of sport. Here it is: this is one of the Doncaster lineouts- they are on the right...Harlequins on the left. Fortunately, there were quite a few lineouts on our side of the pitch so I got lots of practice. The other pictures I took are crap.

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The weather was strange, alternating between sun and rain for most of the day. Fortunately, it was more sunny than not, and we sat in a covered stand so we were not getting wet. It is is still nice to be outside in London, but you can feel winter coming...when the sun was not out there was a definite chill in the air. This should give you some idea of the contrast - this is the same stand before and after the match.

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To add a Japanese link, NEC is a major club sponsor, so the announcer would refer to the team as the NEC Harlequins and there was lot sof NEC advertising around the stadium. They are also know informally as the 'Quins' or 'the Mighty Quin'. Most of you probably know that the later is also a song - they played that before each half.

I had an old duffer sitting next to me and you would have thought this was the worst rugby team in the world. He kept muttering under his breath after every play and always saw the downside. The 'quins score a try? his reply 'don't even bother to kick - no one can kick on this team'...and so on. It was funny at first, but after awhile it was tedious. Then again, he has probably supported the team for 50 years (have they been around that long?) and this was my first match. I suppose I should cut him some slack.

I completely enjoyed myself (again). Leigh and I have been to rugby twice (Agen and Harlequins) and football once (Chelsea) in the last three weeks. We were wondering how many other people have been clever enough to watch this string of matches in the last three weeks. If you are one of them, let me know.

Posted by Kirk at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2005

Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1

I am now part of the high-flying London sport scene. Leigh arranged for tickets at Stamford Bridge for this weekend's fixture - Chelsea were hoping to win their seventh straight match to open the year and they did that quite easily with a 2-1 result.

It was very crowded with 42,000 people there, and they announced before hand that it was the largest attendance of LOCAL fans since 1982 or something. That was no surprise as there weren't many Aston Villa fans (they were tucked away in a small corner). I imagine the ticket prices put them off...we paid 60 pounds each to get in! I felt like I was in Japan for the World Cup!

This is the entrance to Stamford Bridge - you can see the crowds (!) and you may also notice that they have put some money into renovations as it is mostly clean. On the right, is a picture I took from our seats, but it does not do the view justice. We could see everything and it was a much better perspective than watching on TV.

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We really got the full Chelski experience: wannabe City hardmen and Russians. The picture on the right below is one of the fans using half-time as an opportunity to read his Financial Times. Would love to see him try that at Upton Park! I could not resist taking a picture. The Russians were sitting in the row in front of us, between us and the exit (hence no photo).

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After the match, we walked back through Brompton Cemetery (it is purely coincidental that I am mentioning this right after talking about the Russians). This place is incredibly big, amazingly full, and most of the tombstones are pre-1900. Most of the time it is very quiet, but every two weeks or so, thousands of Chelsea fans stomp through on their way to Kensington. I bet they didn't count on that when they were buried.

Posted by Kirk at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2005

French sport: Agen v Castres

One of the highlights of the holiday was watching local powerhouse Sporting Union Agen take on regional rivals Castres Olympique. Both teams are in the top league in France (Top 14) and have internationals playing for them - this was high quality sport.

The home team won convincingly (Agen 40 Castres 16) despite conceding the first nine points and having one of their high-scoring forwards sent off early in the first half. I tried to find some commentary on the Internet, but this is all I could come up with.

The weather was perfect and we had seats three rows off the pitch at midfield. I could not get over how close we were to the action...the pictures below give you a pretty good idea.

The first picture is the entrance to the ground. To the right is the home team lining up for the opening kick. On the bottom left is one of the lineouts...right in front of us (!). The last picture is the home fans helping the team celebrate.
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Posted by Kirk at 06:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

Update: London's bid a winner!

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What a surprise win for London. In a 54-50 vote, London edged out Paris for the rights to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. And that means plenty of new infrastructure and lawsuits. In the meantime, there will be celebrations.

The pre-decision betting all put Paris on top, so bookmakers probably lost a few quid. Here's to them losing more next year during the 2006 World Cup!

Posted by Kirk at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

Olympics decision today - not much else to write about

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Today is a big day if you are a businessman or property developer in Moscow, New York, Madrid, Paris or London. The final decision on who will host the 2012 Summer Olympics is due to be made.

The announcement is planned for 845pm Tokyo (1245 London).

This is the culmination of thousands of hours of preparation by the bid committees in various cities. For example, it would have been nearly impossible not to notice the "Back the bid" campaign in London for the last year.

What do I think about it? London or Paris would be nice, I guess. The reality is, I could not find anything else to write about this morning (thanks to the BBC, which had this cool picture, I was excited enough to write a few words)

Posted by Kirk at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

Baseball fever...

How is this for cool: the San Diego Padres have won seven straight games against some of the best teams in the league. And they are in first place. I am happy about that. In fact, I am spending so much of my time at the Major League Baseball website, they are going to give me frequent flier miles.

Anyway, this weekend, the Padres will play the Seattle Mariners. In Japan, the Mariners are very popular thanks to star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who last year broke the record for most hits in a major league season (262). Thanks to him, there is plenty of Amercian baseball on TV here. And there is no doubt the Padres-Mariners games will be on. Too bad I won't be here.

Posted by Kirk at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2005

Long-suffering baseball fan

Now that the football season is almost over, it is time for me to turn my attention to baseball. When I was growing up, I loved this sport and I cannot imagine summer without it.

And of course, there is plenty of baseball in Japan, although I have not really paid much attention to it until this year. The closest team to my home is the Yakult Swallows, and I am going to make every effort to go to a game this year. Let me know if you want to go! This weekend, the Swallows played the Chiba Lotte Marines, which are managed by Bobby Valentine. If I was going to have a second favorite team in Japan, maybe that would be it.

But my TRUE favorite team is the one I grew up with, the San Diego Padres. Being a Padres fan is like being a Cubs or Red Sox fan, but at least most people recognise how difficult it can be one to be of their fans. Not so with San Diego. Maybe this year is different. I hope so!

Posted by Kirk at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)