Monday, 27 July 2009

Agent Orange Report: 23 Hours

Eleven hours to Kobe, seven hours back and I am sore and tired. One thing did cheer me up greatly, though: the penguin. Now, when you are in southern Japan in the middle of summer, the last thing you expect to see outside of a stadium is a live penguin. I'm not really a huge fan of birds in particular (the Kawasaki game should give you an inkling why) and I wasn't that big of a fan of penguins, until I saw one up close. That bird just standing there showed more personality and charisma than a lot of people I know.

I stumbled onto him by mistake. I was walking around the front of the stadium, killing time and trying to give all the other supporters a break from my stink and I came across a set of small aquariums full of odd and gross-looking sea creatures. Then, I saw a petting zoo full of terrified baby chicks, rabbits and guinea pigs. I didn't feel like fighting with the small throng of Kobe ankle-biters so I walked away. Then, I saw him - or her. Our eyes met and I'm pretty sure we were thinking the same things:

1. It's too damn hot.

2. What the hell are you doing here?

3. What the hell am I doing here? and

4. A delicious McDonalds Filet-O-Fish sandwich would hit the spot right now.

I want a penguin now. I'd name him Buddy and we would drive around in an IROC solving mysteries and getting down with the ladies. It would be a wonderful life indeed!

I guess I should probably mention the game now. As the season wears on, I'm finding I am not alone in having my doubts about Six-Pack. More and more I'm hearing the same things - that Yosuke Kataoka just is not a J1-level player. So imagine my disgust when he ends up being named in the starting XI in place of Daisuke Tomita. Now, I think to myself, Wow! I just rode eleven hours to watch Six-Pack blow any chance we have of stealing some points from Kobe. One minute in and he gives up a corner kick and then commits a foul deep in our half for a free kick. Ten minutes in and we still have not got past the half-way line. It seriously looked like another "performance" was coming.

Off topic, but the word "penguin" is believed to be a derivative of the Latin word for "fat". I on the other hand am fat, but not Latin.

Two close calls later and then Kobe skies a shot into the Omiya supporter section and I catch the ball. I am greeted with warm and polite applause. The game is a borefest, there are less than 9000 people in the building and I saw a penguin. A Humboldt penguin, by the way. You can tell by the distinctive markings. Humboldt penguins fall into the category of banded penguins.

I don't know what Jang Wae Ryong said at half time (according to the rumored complaints about him, probably not much) but it worked because early on, the team had much more life to them. Kobe on the other hand seemed to lose their shape and discipline and were allowing Omiya to get into the lanes. Seven minutes in, Hayato Hashimoto hits a curling bomb in the run of play to give Omiya a first goal in God knows how long. Nice shot and long overdue for the guy.

Off topic again, but some penguins are thought to be near-sighted and gay. Just like Elton John.

A few minutes later, the worst, dirtiest and least-skilled player ever to play at J1 level (according to, kind of, the head of officiating of the JFA - I embellish a little, but the sentiment is still there) stayed on his feet, weaved through three Kobe defenders and scored on the run for a 2-0 score. Sweet Sassy Molassy! Golazo.

Now at this point, I'm starting to get a bit worried because we are yielding corners and letting in penetration. Mato Neretljak picks up a yellow and now I'm stressing about not only blowing this week but next week as well (our favorite giant Croatian will be suspended). Park Won Jae gets a bit animated and I'm thinking, they are really abusing our wings, why not get some subs in for guys who are on three yellows?

Well at about eighty minutes, Kohei Tokita comes in and doesn't do much, Seo Yong Duk a l'Orange is called over and I think, OK, he's gonna come in for Chikara Fujimoto who has been walking around on the field for a good five minutes and has three yellows. Nooo, Jang waits for Kobe to put one in the net after Hiroto Mogi absolutely blows by Six-Pack and puts a pass into the previously dirty and useless Yoshito Okubo for a goal. Gotta go to a safe place now.

Penguins have been featured prominently in modern cinema. From the waiters in Mary Poppins (like the first half of this game, completely unwatchable) to the villain in numerous Batman milieu and the hilarious cameo in Billy Madison, the penguin has been represented well. Most recently, the penguin was the main protagonist in the documentary March Of The Penguins, the sickly sweet animated dance movie Happy Feet and the under-rated Surf's Up.

Jang decides that Seo needs to come on for the still-active Naoki Ishihara. Nervous moments, but we win. And I got to see a penguin.

Three Stars (not being penguins)

1. Hayato Hashimoto

2. Naoki Ishihara

3. Koji Ezumi

I'm still worried and now I'm not sure who our centerbacks are at Niigata next week in the absence of Mato. Probably Tomita and Kataoka, unless Jang has completely soured on Daisuke. We could see Shunsuke Fukuda or (God forbid) a combination of Kataoka and Yusuke Murayama. Decisions like that get people killed.

Orange! Ehhhhhh, OK!! Football!!!

I'm sleepy.



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