Friday, July 15, 2011

アメリカと日本サッカー The Parallels of American Soccer & Japanese Football Leagues

As Japan and the United States head into an epic Women’s World Cup Final this Sunday it would be remiss to take note of the shared obstacles both nations face. Not by tactics, set pieces, or player rosters, but by a lack of respect within their own countries. And this is not limited to Women’s Football, this extends into to both nations Men’s national teams and their respective Football / Soccer leagues as well. In Europe, entire nations rally behind their national men’s teams and have hundred year old clubs with equally old football leagues that were created long before the US started calling it Football / Soccer. The USMNT could be in the World Cup Final and the news of the team would still be buried behind more “important” sports segments like the NFL lockout or player doping results in other sports. Sadly in Japan, the same problem exists. With Nadeshiko Japan’s historic run up to the 2011 FIFA World Cup Final you would think this would be front page news. Iie! Not there. And over here in the US? Not a chance. Perhaps if the USWNT wins they might make the evening news a day late after LA’s “Carmageddon” as what happened after the US win over France in the Semi Final. I would not be surprised if there are people in Europe that bear resentment as we did over FC Dallas triumph over the LA Galaxy in last year’s lead up to the MLS Cup on the grounds that the majority of Texas could give a rats ass unless it was the Dallas Cowboys making the news. Attitudes in both countries towards “Soccer” are less than deserving. Regardless of Mexico’s win in the Gold Cup scores of Americans wishing their own country defeat just to spite our brand of football is disgraceful if not outright unpatriotic not to mention disrespectful to the country that gives you the freedom to choose which team to support unlike Mexico. Equally disgusting during last year’s 2010 FIFA Men’s World Cup scores of Japanese posts chided their own team all over the internet and Japanese press all purely out of a hate for a sport that is both growing in popularity and skill set among J-League players despite the lack of news coverage. ばか! Sound familiar? Until recently, you would have to wait for a sex scandal involving LA Galaxy’s David Beckham before you could get an MLS story in the news with the exception of Landon Donovan’s win over Algeria. Meanwhile over in Germany, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup is front page news.

Both Japan’s J-League and the US’s own MLS were both created in the 1990’s and are both respectively new leagues in the European sense of the word who are making significant gains in both countries. Despite gaining a 182% gain in overall attendance in the face of a 60% drop in Baseball, NBA, and the NHL our MLS football is still meeting stiff resistance from the non-believers and the haters in this country. Similarly in Japan where Baseball is king the ranks of non-believers are firmly entrenched but with Japan’s recent gains in the FIFA rankings and the success of the nations J-League these proponents of anything but soccer are slowly being deafened by the monstrous chants out from the Nagoya Grampus stadium and by the cheers of their ever growing masses of supporters. There are some that say Soccer will never be popular here in the US. It’s likely those same doubters are unaware of the over 4 million people who attended MLS games during the 2010 season. And while the Women’s Professional Soccer League aka WPS plays on with only six teams on college “Throw ball” fields, it is the one women’s football league that female players ranging from Marta of Brazil to members of Nadeshiko Japan all come to the US to play in the highest paid women’s football league in the world. And despite the lack of fans or news coverage, this tiny league is thriving and slowly rebounding the way the MLS did in the early 2000’s. The MLS now boasts 18 teams with two expansion teams and another ten cities citing interest in future league expansion. Whereas the J-League has grown so large they are broken into two divisions with Div 1 boasting 18 teams and Div 2 boasting 20. Not to be lost to the American Women’s Professional Soccer League aka WPS, Japan has its own women’s league known as the L-League boasting 10 teams.

Football / Soccer is growing in both Japan and the United States but you wouldn’t know that from the spotty news coverage particularly for the women’s leagues of both countries. While their male counter parts both in Japan and the US dominate what little news coverage given, women in both countries play on and face the same uphill battle for respect that the men face. But this too will change. It really gets under my skin to hear some "men" call women’s football weak. The only thing weak is the failure to acknowledge and outright dismiss the football stars this country is producing and fear of our women’s teams successes. I really don’t care if  the player is a man or a woman playing. I’ll equally watch Kitsuke Honda, Homare Sawa, Lauren Cheney, or Landon Donovan play not because of their sex or which team they play for, it’s because they kick ass! To dismiss Football / Soccer in either country is to insert your head into a bucket of sand and to further dismiss the women’s game entirely is to stick your head in your ass and flush it down the wrong side of history. It has been Japan and the US’s shared destiny since Commodore Perry landed in Uraga Harbor in 1853 that these two nations shared an entwined history and run tandem karmic parallels. I believe in our Football aka Soccer will become a dominant sport in both countries within my very lifetime. And if there is any doubt to what a believer can dream, wait for the final whistle to blow this Sunday at the end of the Final in this year’s Women’s World Cup. Whether you love Homare Sawa or Hope Solo, this will be one match for the history of both countries. You will believe! わかります か?

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