To experience the football World Cup (WC) in your own country is, probably once in a lifetime opportunity. For me, WC2002 was a “hard-work” experience, with minimum of football joy.
I was working at a sports store in Osaka. Its not a sports store as in selling boots, and stuff. But rather a fan goods store: shirts, autographs, cards, souvenirs, and so on. A mishmush of club shops around the world on MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, football… We had the Official World Cup Shop attached, so if you came to the official shop in Osaka, you might have seen me.
It was so busy and hard work that we hardly saw any matches on TV. We recorded and played in the shop, for promotional use, but I can’t recall a single match that I was so immersed myself into the match, and concentrating every kicks, touches, movements, and whistles.
The most joyful moment of the tournament for me was, when Turkey went ahead against Japan in the 1st round of the knock-out stage. Yes, we lost, and all the shop staff, including myself, was so happy about it. True, the income will go down, but we were stretching so much of our mental health that we could not bear any more. Its really sad, isn’t it ? You host the World Cup and the most happiest moment is when your country lose.
On the day of Japan vs. Tunisia at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium, we were so packed that the shop staff could not get inside the shop floor. It was same on the day of Japan vs. Turkey. But the next day, we had about a dozen customers.
People, People, People …
If you saw how Japanese people going crazy during the WC2002, what was your impression? Perhaps “passionate” was the word used by the media around the world. But I say don’t be fooled by it. Those who are really passionate football supporter are really only a handful. Some are not interested in Football, just want to have a party and de-stress. Some feels they have to, because everyone else, or the media are. And the rest ? who knows.
I did go to Seoul to watch the semi-final; South Korea vs. Germany. But I was so tired that I started to fall a sleep halfway through. It wasn’t the most great game either, and that didn’t help. The atmosphere was though, great at the stadium. However in town, like Japan, it was dead. May be the places we were wasn’t the right choice, but really, nothing WC related was going on.
To me, WC in Japan was tiring and disappointing experience, when you think that this is the biggest world wide event there is. The World Cup is like a eye of the typhoon. All different cultures of all sorts, flows in to the hosting country, with all eyes towards it. I think WC2002 was not. May be it was for other Japanese people, at other venues – Osaka is not a football town at all, it is where baseball is the king – around the country. But sadly not for me.
I hope that the German people, especially those who are going to work in a place like Official World Cup Shop (I am assuming there are), have a much greater and joyful time than I and possibly many others had here in Japan, four years a go. In fact, I am sure you all will, because sports is a European culture. No matter how far and beyond this culture has reached, it is still European at heart, and will work best under that condition. I feel Japan has only acquired the framework called “Sports”, and good or bad, we fused whats inside with those of Japanese, resulting in rather unique, or twisted, situation. For many Japanese people, probably its nothing. But for me, some one who was brought up with the British sporting culture, it hurts too much.
I love to be in Germany right now, even with no tickets. But the money is an issue, and only myself to blame that.
I hope those who are there, you have a good time. If you are from Japan, immerse yourself in the true sporting and football culture.
Added shortly after:
Oh yeah. I was interviewed by the BBC Sports, at the shop I was working. I think it was the day England played Nigeria at Osaka. They told me it was going to be aired, by according to my friends in England, it never did. How disappointing was that !