Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kashiwa Reysol 2 at Consadole Sapporo 0 - April 7, 2012




Consadole Sapporo came into being in 1996 when the Toshiba Soccer Club transferred their franchise to an ownership group based in Hokkaido. Since then, they been on a roller coaster ride of promotion and relegation between the two divisions of J.League, falling down to the lower division 3 times only to eventually come back to J1. They won the J2 title last year which meant yet another promotion, but also more quality opposition. The season is early, with only four games played, but already Consadole is just one from the bottom with only a draw to show from those four contests.

Sapporo Dome


Their official home ground is the Sapporo Dome (above), which is also home to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Baseball takes priority, so 7 of their summer games are played at Atsubetsu Stadium, a poor substitute for the dome from what I understand. I've already commented on this venue after seeing the Fighters there on Thursday, so will avoid rehashing most points, but want to discuss some of the differences between watching a baseball game and soccer match at this facility.

The first thing I noticed was that getting into the stadium would be much more of a hassle for soccer. Tickets are separated into "priority" and "normal" with priority given to those who are members of the fan club from what I could tell. Whatever the reason, my ticket had no priority and I was told to stand in a line down at street level, which I obediently did for about 30 minutes, shivering in the morning chill. (I had checked out of my hotel and decided to head directly to the stadium three hours before the 2pm start - stupid move in hindsight, as I knew gates opened at noon).


Finally, at around 11:45 they marched us up the stairs (shown above) and I thought we would be getting in a bit early, but no, we stopped for about 10 minutes there, still shivering, before another short march to the actual gate, which was at least partially covered. Another five minutes passed until the clock struck twelve and we were allowed in. It turns out that the priority ticket holders get to enter the stadium before us plebes and that is why all the machinations were necessary. Even then, there were so few fans (just over 14,000) that I got to sit exactly where I wanted. The whole system was just silly, when the stadium is only 1/3 full there is no real advantage to having a priority ticket, other than getting in a few minutes earlier. It's a typical Japanese set-up though, where common sense takes a back seat to over-regulation. If you are seeing a soccer game here, show up 5 minutes after gates open and you'll be fine.

Another difference for the soccer match was getting around the stadium. Whereas the ballpark had no off-limit spots, in soccer, they need to separate the visitors section from the rest of the seating area since fan violence is a huge problem at J.League games. Ha! Fans ride crowded trains together before and after the game without a problem; again this is just for show. You can still walk around the stadium, however at the visitor area, you have to go outside the actual building for about 50 meters to avoid seeing any of those hated opposition fans.


This is actually pretty cool because much of the dome wall is glass and they have painted city names on this wall, apparently in the general direction that the city lies. However, these are not visible during the game because they lower blinds to block out the natural light, so that even day games appear to be played at night. That's Tokyo below, in reverse as I am outside the dome.


Here is a picture of the field taken during the tour on the previous day, you can see the sunlight shining through.


I should mention that these city names are part of the Art Grove, 24 pieces of art scattered around the Sapporo Dome and its grounds. I saw a few of them while wandering about and would say that you'd have to be a pretty big fan of art to get much out of it.

During the soccer matches, there are a few different food choices as each concession has a special soccer-only item. My recommendation is the Consadole Burger, a pepper chicken fillet covered with chili sauce and lettuce that is much better than it sounds and is available at any of the Mos Burger stands. As well, outside food is allowed, which is was not at the baseball game. Beer vendors roam the aisles only up to game time and then are relegated to the top concourse so as not to interfere with the fans' view.

As well, fans here are much better than those I encountered at the Fighters' game, watching the match and not irritating me in the least. I just wish there were more of them. That's the main cheering section below but other than that it was pretty empty.


Finally, a shot of some World Cup 2002 jerseys on display at the Memorial Walk in the West Gate.


It is really interesting watching two completely different sports in the same venue (basketball and hockey don't count in this sense). The Sapporo Dome is a great facility but as with all multi-purpose venues, it cannot satisfy every need of both sports. For soccer, the better seats are near the goal line as the seating is more like a coliseum so the midfield seats are farther from the field as you can see below. Yet these seats are more expensive. My advice is to get an SB unreserved ticket for 2,700 yen and sit as close as you want.


Overall, baseball is a better bet at the Sapporo Dome in terms of suitability of the venue, but the Consadole fans made the soccer game a more enjoyable experience. Whatever the case, if you are in Sapporo, head to the dome for one or the other, it is a unique sports facility that must be seen to be believed.

The Game

Last year's J1 champion Kashiwa Reysol was visiting and although they were off to a rough 1-1-2 start, they were by far the better team. From the first whistle they dominated, winning two corners in the first few minutes and essentially playing most of the first half in the Sapporo end. Below you can see a Sapporo defender clearing another attack.


The pressure was sure to yield something and just past the half-hour mark, the ball fell to Masato Kondo who broke around his defender and simply powered the ball over Consadole keeper Takahiro Takagi. I though Takagi had proper position, but Kondo's bullet was perfectly placed into the top corner and simply unstoppable. Great goal to open the scoring for the visitors.


The second half started better for Sapporo, who managed a couple of chances, but Reysol resisted and began their relentless attack again. After winning a corner in the 63rd minute, last year's MVP Leandro Domingues launched the ball into the box and defender Naoya Kondo rose to head home for the 2-0 lead. That really decided the game, although Consadole tried to get one back, there was no beating the Kashiwa defense.


The final shot count was 23-7 for Reysol, who totally outclassed their hosts for 90 minutes. Amazingly though, Consadole rose a level in the standings as Gamba Osaka lost by 3 goals to move below them on goal differential.

Notes

After the game, I took a bus from Fukuzumi Station to the airport to catch my flight back to Tokyo. Japan is so reliable that I could book a flight 3 hours after the game and not have to worry about public transportation failing me. At the airport, I saw the Reysol players arriving for their own flight back, snappily dressed in suits and ties. They were not harassed at all, except by one old lady in a Kashiwa jersey who ran over excitedly to Domingues and gave him a big hug. Frankly, I think most Japanese don't even know there is a J.League; we sports fans think that it is the center of the universe but in reality more people don't watch sports than do.

Next Up

After a short rest at home, I'll fly to Fukuoka on Tuesday for a Softbank Hawks game, with the Fighters the visitors this time. Check back Wednesday for a report on that.

Best,

Sean

2 comments:

  1. This post was exactly what I needed to come across. Thanks for mentioning your seat recommendation. I am planning on going to a game in the next month so your suggestion helps save some money plus getting a great seat.

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  2. Thanks Aaron, hope you had a great trip!

    ReplyDelete