Antlers & F.Marinos Host Junpiter Futbol
After getting so impressed with the Stadium walk during the match between FC Tokyo & Kawasaki Frontale, Junpiter Futbol proceed to Kashima Antlers’ home ground, Kashima Soccer Stadium the very next day to continue with
After getting so impressed with the Stadium walk during the match between FC Tokyo & Kawasaki Frontale, Junpiter Futbol proceed to Kashima Antlers’ home ground, Kashima Soccer Stadium the very next day to continue with its SingaCup Promotional & Learning Tour!
With the advice from J.League Team and some researching done on Google, we easily found the fastest way to reach Kashima from Tokyo Train Station. Instead of doing multiple transits via the train, there was a more straight forward way which was to take an Express bus ride, approximately 2 hours journey, from Tokyo Bus Terminal to Kashima Soccer Stadium. Once you arrived at the venue, you would not miss out the huge Kashima Soccer Stadium which was located just beside your arrival place!
J.League U-16 Challenge Cup
Before we started the walk into Kashima Antlers’, we were invited by J.League Team to catch the J.League U-16 Challenge Cup 2014 which was taking place at Bokudennosato park located directly opposite Kashima Soccer Museum. This was a 3 days tournament with 10 teams completing each others at 2 different venues, Shizuoka and Kashima. J.League had arranged such a tournament in order to maximize the playing time for the youth players especially at a period of time where the league at their level was not active.
We were fortunate to catch 2 of the games, Kashima Antlers taking on Thespakusatsu Gunma and Consadole Sapporo battled out with Mito HollyHock. Despite their young age, the players displayed commendable maturity and teamwork in the games. Although the weather was chilly, the overall youth football experience which we saw within that few hours on the ground warmed our hearts deeply.
The entire organization of the tournament was simple, nothing fanciful but organized with simple details all taken care of. Things like a hollow square weight which were used to contain footballs (for quick replacement of ball out of play) at nearly all corners of the pitch to counter the heavy wind and color football markers were used to mark out the official area in front of their bench during the game.
Kashima Soccer Museum & Soccer Stadium
Next, we proceeded to one of the most decorated clubs in Japan’s footballing history, 10 times domestic Champion, Kashima Antlers! The moment we stepped into the Kashima Soccer Museum, the one and only J.League club in Japan which owns its own Soccer Museum, immediately we were greeted by the officials as they were briefed beforehand by J.League! Well, basically we were the only visitors to Kashima Antlers on that particular day as the team just had a home game against Cerezo Osaka the day before. Rightfully, it’s an off day for the officials but due to our visit from Singapore, the team came back and met up with us!
Kashima Soccer Museum was certainly a much smaller scale as compared to Japan Football Museum, but Kashima’s history was never short of rich. In the Museum, it displayed team jerseys of theirs for the past 20 years and even first team players’ mug shot for the past 20 years too. We also noticed, the team was extremely proud of the fact that Zico was once their most outstanding signing of all times with his autographed jerseys and memorabilia!
The Museum was classified into the Trophy Case, Panel Room, Antlers Zone, Library, Dream Seat and lastly World Cup Zone. This World Cup Zone is worth mentioning as Kashima Soccer Stadium was one of the venues used for 2002 World Cup where it played host to Argentina, Nigeria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Croatia in front of an average 35,000 crowd!
After we were done with the Museum, we were led to the pitch side as well as the Changing Room, VIP Room and Warming Up Area. Having seen so much about Kashima Soccer Stadium from various magazines and from television, it was really a great experience to walk through the Stadium like a player! A full size football Stadium with no running track was indeed different to what we were used to watching a S.League in Singapore. Perhaps, we should be back again to catch a live game in the near future! But for those who are keen to travel to Kashima Soccer Stadium, this is technically a dead town with no shopping facility except football!
When we were presented with the opportunity to choose either to visit Yokohama F.Marinos’ home ground, Nissan Stadium or their training ground, Marinos Town, it was pretty much an easy decision; Marinos Town. Marinos Town is widely believed to be the best training ground in the whole of Japan!
JFA (Japan Football Association) had assigned a Liaison Officer to assist us and also acted as our interpreter for this trip to Yokohama. Welcoming us at the training ground was Yokohama F.Marinos’ General Manager of Sponsor Sales Department, Mr. Hikasa Yoshiki. We also have the privilege of meeting the head of Marinos’, Mr. Shimojo Yoshiaki and even exchanged a few conversations on Singapore’s famous Merlion and Marina Bay Sands!
Compared to some of the previous training grounds we have visited, this is by far the most modern type which we have seen probably due to the fact that this ground is situated in the middle of a city in Yokohama with high rise buildings surrounding it. We are not missing home as it seems like we are in Singapore’s CBD (Central Business District) area! Later on, Mr. Hikasa brought us around the training ground as well as the Club House for a walk and amazingly, we were walking among the Marinos’ first team players!
One of the places in the Club House which we visited was the team’s dining room. Basically, all players including team officials have their lunch together in the dining room. If required, dinner could be catered too. One thing which really caught our attention was the daily menu card displayed on a small table which we noticed the moment we walked into the dining room. Apart from showing the dishes which were going to be served that day, a colored pie chart was displayed to indicate the amount of calories, vitamins and various nutritions intake which the players/officials were expecting for that particular meal. That was an awesome professional diet arrangement! In fact, I was told some J.League clubs do practice the taking of weight measurement prior to a meal and the procedure repeated immediately after the meal. Just then, Japan International Midfielder, Saito Manabu just walked pass us with a greeting “konnichiwa”…
We are constantly trying to relate their setup with what we have seen in the S.League and curiosity hit. So what does the club do to attract the crowd to the Stadium for games?
According to Marinos, they are always looking out for interesting ideas to attract the public and even kids to the Stadium. For every game, they would have various F&B stores with great cuisine selections be made available for those who arrive in the Stadium early. For our understanding, these F&B vendors would always be keen to be involved in such an event as it does generate substantial revenue for their effort. Apart from the F&B, there would be many other mini carnival-like activities such as kids’ playground, meeting the Marinos’ mascot, mini kick-about and a “live-band” performance. Last but not least, there is also merchandise stores selling all that you need to support your team at the Stadium! Now, it makes more sense that the supporters are coming in families as there are so many great activities for they themselves and their kids to be involved in.
Guess what, in order to keep the interesting activities going for their own respective club’s game, many interesting and wild ideas were worked out. Recently, Kawasaki Frontale set up a mini-Zoo just outside their Stadium prior to the game! Supporters got to take photos with ponies, cows, pigs and many more! Kids love it! And if kids love it, you sure know the parent loves it!
Oh, by the way, did we tell you that it was a pleasure seeing former Celtic’s Midfielder, Nakamura Shunsuke practicing free kicks!