Gamba Osaka v Kashima Antlers, Saturday 29th September 2012, 4pm

It’s Chuseok again in Korea. The time of year when dutiful Koreans return to their hometown to pay their respects to their ancestors and not so dutiful non-Koreans head off on holiday somewhere.

This year Jen and I went to Japan, staying in Kyoto for four nights and taking the opportunity to look around the Kansai region. As ever I made a point of seeing what sporting events were going on and as luck would have it Gamba Osaka were at home to Kashima Antlers in the J-League on our first day there.

We caught a morning Eastarjet flight from Incheon to Osaka Kansai and were in Japan by eleven o’clock. It took a while to get through immigration and then collect our Kansai Rail passes so we decided to get some lunch at the airport from a cafe called Beef Bowl. It served, as you might expect, bowls with beef in. The best bit though was that you made your choice at a vending machine by pressing the button with the appropriate photograph, inserting your money and then handing your printed ticket to the man behind the counter. As someone who speaks no Japanese it could only have been bettered if the beef bowl had been dispensed from the machine rather than a ticket.

After lunch we took the train to Shin Osaka station, dumped our bags in the left luggage and then took an hour-long journey by subway and monorail to Gamba Osaka’s Expo ’70 Commemorative Stadium. I’d tell you the names of the subway stops but I’ve forgotten them. The lady in the Tourist Information at Shin Osaka knows though, so you can ask her.

Expo ’70 Commemorative Stadium, Osaka.

It was fairly busy outside the stadium with cheerleaders putting on a bit of a show and with plenty of people milling around the stalls selling food and merchandise. Jen and I made our way to a bar where I got some unspecified meat on a stick and a Suntory beer.

The queue to get in at the Curva Nord.

We would probably have spent a little longer at the bar but it was starting to rain and as neither of us had brought a coat we thought it better to get some tickets and make our way inside. The tickets started at 2,500 yen and went up to 5,500. We got two top-priced ones in the main stand (described as box seats) on the basis that they might have a better chance of being under cover. No chance. The small canopy covered only a small selection of local bigwigs and sponsors, everyone else in that stand and the rest of the ground found themselves exposed to the elements.

The fans in the opposite stand had all brought their coats.

Despite the weather the twenty-one thousand capacity ground was about two-thirds full. The home ‘ultras’ had the North stand to our left with the visitors taking up a decent chunk of the opposite end. Both of those sections were standing areas, the new modern kind with barriers between each row. It lent itself to a great atmosphere with both sets of fans making a racket throughout the game.

The home end.

The singing was all quite well organised with one bloke and his megaphone leading the chants. He’d generally have to just give them one line and with a couple of couple of drummers chipping in, the whole end would take it up.

“C’mon Gamba”

It was a similar situation at the Kashima end, although with fewer fans. It’s over three hundred miles from Osaka to Kashima so it was still a decent turnout. Although I suppose the bullet train might just cut the journey time a bit from what you’d expect.

The away fans.

Both sides have been struggling this season and with only a handful of games to go Gamba are in the relegation area and Kashima just outside of it, five points ahead of their hosts. A win for Kashima would probably be enough to ensure that Gamba wouldn’t be able to catch them.

After a cagey opening ten minutes the visitors took the lead through Renato Caja, much to the delight of their fans.

Tits out for the lads.

It wasn’t to last though and midway through the half Brazilian Leandro equalised for Gamba Osaka. It probably spared him from a half-time bollocking as he’d missed an absolute sitter a minute or so before.

Osaka celebrate their equaliser and a new baby for someone.

Parity didn’t last long though as Junior Dutra became the third Brazillian to score, putting Kashima back in front just before the break. There was another Brazilian on the visiting bench, Juninho. Not the real one or even the fake one who used to play for Lyon. A fake, fake one I suppose. I checked him out on Soccerway and he’s about five foot ten. That’s odd, I’d always thought that Juninho was Portuguese for ‘Shortarse’ or something. It seems an odd choice of nickname, especially in a country like Japan where he’ll be taller than most of his teammates.

At half time we took refuge from the rain and I got myself another Suntory. As in Korea, ramyeon seemed pretty popular as a snack, along with the meat on a stick that I’d eaten earlier.

Half-time snack.

The rain eased off in the second half, but with a wet pitch both teams pinged the ball about and created plenty of chances. Gamba were attacking the home end and went close on a few occasions.

Endo curls in a cross.

We headed out with five minutes to go as we had stuff to do and were keen to beat the rest of the crowd to the subway. Unfortunately that meant we missed Leandro’s injury time equaliser, his ninth goal in five games. Forty minutes later we were back at Shin Osaka station and then onwards to Kyoto.

One Response to “Gamba Osaka v Kashima Antlers, Saturday 29th September 2012, 4pm”

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