Sunday, 1 May 2011

Agent Orange: Kansai Haircut

The second stop on the Agent Orange Travelogue took me down to Kobe for Saturday's game against Vissel. I've been three times and it's becoming one of my favorite trips because of the odd things that tend to happen. The bus trip itself sucks because my ever-expanding ass does not sit comfortably in the less-than-spacious seating but Kobe is an interesting place - kind of a Japanese San Francisco in my opinion. This time I was fortunate enough to have a little more time in the city so I could walk around a bit.

The supporters group I go with hit Chinatown because we had four hours to kill before the game. Walked around there a while, got a little bored and saw a barber pole down along a darkish alley just off the main Chinatown strip. I figured why not and strolled in. Three older gentlemen were standing around looking dolefully out the window waiting for someone to come in and solicit their services.

My first thought was, "Great, no wait." My second thought was, "Hey, nobody is here... maybe they're bad." My third thought was, "Am I gonna get raped by these guys?"

I asked for a head shave, obviously the wrong way because the barber ended up giving me a cut that made me look like a middle-aged salary worker, or as my friends from the land of magical weddings would say, a right proper geezer (sorry, "English" is not my first language). I explained again that I wanted to be bald and he took a second crack. At this time, I'm thinking to myself that maybe I should tread lightly considering that Chinatown is very close and I have no clue what they put in their nikuman. Could it be man niku? I'm waiting for the hot towel on the face and the razor across the throat a la Sweeney Todd.

Second attempt is closer but still wrong, so I ask very gently again. Round three is magic! Exactly what I wanted. I get my head massage and the shave along the ears (scaryyy) and then I apologize profusely and am out the door. Good haircut... glad it's over.

That was the highlight of the trip because the game itself was something far less. It was nice to go into someone else's house and steal three points after not playing our best, because that's exactly what happened to us last week against Kashiwa Reysol. By far the most remarkable thing was that Chikara Fujimoto played well, played hard, and came up with the hold and pass to set up the lone goal of the game for Lee Chun Soo. If he plays like that every game, I am all for getting behind our captain. Good job Chikara!

Keigo Higashi on the other hand had a shocker of a game that gave one memories of Kohei Tokita, stumbling over the ball in dangerous areas on numerous occasions and giving away possession time after time. I am a big Higashi fan, he was my favorite signing this year, but if he plays badly I have no problem criticizing him.

The major factor in this game though was the lack of composure on Vissel's side and the lack of good judgement by the usually professional referee, Yuichi Nishimura. Early on, Kobe did press the advantage and came up with some good chances. Unfortunately for them, their strike force led by World Cup hero Yoshito Okubo were spraying chance after chance into the Omiya faithful sitting behind the goal. Nishimura kicked in by giving a number of very favorable calls to Vissel in deep. Again, unfortunately for them, their key set piece player Popo was not a real threat on the day because couldn't find his range.

You could see the frustration growing for the home team as they ground rolled and whined and complained. Referee Nishimura was more than happy to indulge them. On two occasions, he looked the other way as they made clear fouls on Rafael and Lee in the box. When Okubo tangled up with Kazuhiro Murakami and hit out at the Ardija defender, both players were given yellows. When Hiroto Mogi barreled into Takashi Kitano on a late and utterly stupid charge for the ball, Nishimura did nothing. It was a very one-sided performance by a guy who usually is reliable and fair.

I am starting to wonder if part of our punishment for the attendance snafu last year is that we're never allowed to be awarded PKs. Three reasonable claims in the past two games and nothing to show for it.

11 Things I Learned in April

I was able to catch two Omiya training matches and two other games during the month and this is what I picked up.

1. Tochigi SC is really good. Alright, it was the first match back and we were playing odd lineups but what I saw was that Tochigi is really good this year. Of the four squads I saw, they looked like the most impressive on the day. This was a team playing without their main striker Ricardo Lobo as well. It may look like a surprise that they are leading J2 over bigger squads but they are the real deal.

2. Vegalta Sendai. If you have read my columns in the past, you know my feelings about Vegalta. I don't like them. Lately it's been difficult to keep up the hate because of what happened last month.

I guess I have a confession to make here. I'm a human being. It's true. Sometimes, I don't spew out vulgarities and bile. Once in a while I actually care about things going on around me. When Vegalta came to play a pair of warm-up games before the J-League restart, I was torn. I was glad that we were able to win the first game and not all that bothered that we couldn't win the second, but it wasn't really a big deal either way. Now that Vegalta won two J1 games in a row, I'm kind of glad for them and I'm very happy for their supporters, who lost many due to the quake and ensuing tsunami. So, just this once, good job Sendai!

3. I'm too cynical. While we were all waiting for the J-League to resume, I had a very acute streak of cynicism come out due to all the charitable activities going on. First, the big match between the J-League superfriends and the Japan National Team was fine (Omiya were locked out again) but part of it bugged me.

The whole Kazu Miura thing seemed to me a little too convenient. It was great that a 44-year-old legend of the game who had really gotten main billing was able to outrun a National Team defender and score in possibly the biggest moment in Japanese soccer history, even though he can barely muster shots in the bowels of J2. I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but why was the term "pro wrestling" echoing in the back of my head? And if it was staged, so what? Everybody was happy about it during a rough time, so who am I to criticize?

The ensuing merchandising for charity thing kind of bothered me as well. I really shouldn't care and I blame this on my Baptist upbringing, but if you buy something for charity isn't that just consumerism and not charity? The end result is the same and the money goes to the same place, if you get a t-shirt out of it, it's a win-win, right? Am I the only one that thinks like this?

4. Cobaltore Onagawa. Furtho has detailed his work with Cobaltore Onagawa and I second it. I'm an Onagawa Supporter, why aren't you?

5. PKs. Remember in 2009 when we got two PKs in one game? Those were good days. Since that time at Saitama Stadium against Kawasaki Frontale, Omiya has been shut out of the whole PK racket. 43 games in total, if I'm correct. Six teams have been awarded PKs this season, including Ventforet Kofu. It's fair to say we are due.

6. Stalling. What's worse than watching your team waste time when holding a lead? Watching your opponent do it and Kashiwa Reysol was very, very guilty of timewasting. All credit goes to ref Hiroyuki Kimura for letting Park Dong Hyuk stew on the sidelines after his memorable performance as a gunshot victim late in Ardija's 1-0 loss. Kimura, who I hate, didn't allow Park back in the game for a good three minutes. Good job, bad ref!

7. Leandro Dominguez. When the end of the season rolls around remember this name, because he will be in the discussion for MVP. Dominguez is already one of the best players in the J-League and he showed it with one shot in an otherwise anonymous performance. Dominguez is the real deal and if everything goes right, he'll pass Marcio Richardes as the best foreign player in the league.

8. Kashiwa Reysol. I am a little less sold on the quality of Reysol. Nelsinho is a great coach but the talent isn't as good as I thought it would be. They are undefeated but they haven't yet played anyone significant (a rebuilt Shimizu S-Pulse, a rebuilt us and a Kofu squad led by Toshiya Miura). I'm not sold on them yet, they kind of look like the Albirex Niigata teams of 2009-2010. They do know how to win ugly, though, and that's going to help them.

9. Vissel Kobe. How that team managed a nine-game unbeaten streak at the end of last year is beyond me. I hate to put the screws to them, but Saturday's was a dirty, gutless performance by the Crimson Cows of Kobe. Not exactly sure what they were thinking by not bringing in any upgrades (Rogerinho isn't the answer), especially at the forward position. As much as I appreciated Okubo's performance in the World Cup, I can't imagine building a squad around an erratic and temperamental talent such as him.

They were dirty yesterday and really bad around the goal. Some might complain that they got beat on one shot!!!!!! but Kobe only put up one serious shot and then Okubo dispatched the rebound into the far reaches of the Omiya supporters section. Did Omiya deserve to win a game when they only put up one real shot!!!!!!? Yes, because Kobe was dreadful in the part of the field where it really counts.

10. Twitter. I hate Twitter. It's a faster way for people to say stupid things. And I can't get the thing to work well on my computer. I want to say stupid things faster and with exclamation points!!!!!!!!! Why not me?

11. I am a sucker. I bought another Omiya jersey today. Surprise, it doesn't fit. Every year, I buy one of these things and wear it to one or two games. Don't know why I keep doing this.

Glad that we won't go winless this year. Next up is a date with Toshiya Miura, Satoru Sakuma and Ventforet Kofu. And just this once, I'm going to give you my...

Agent Orange Kofu Preview Extraordinaire

1. Miura wants to defend and counter. Score early and we make them press the attack.
2. Mike Havenaar is tall. Don't let him get space.
3. Rafael, score!
4. Exploit an old friend. I love Daisuke Tomita but he was never fast. Chun Soo, Higashi and Daisuke Watabe have a big advantage in the speed department and they need to exploit it. Daniel will probably be occupied with Rafael so Omiya can isolate on the former anchor of our defense. Hate to do it to a great guy but we have to.

Sorry, previews aren't my thing. I will say this: if we have any aspirations of being more than relegation survivors, we have to win games like this against teams where on paper we have an advantage.

Squirrels clim trees! Orange Happy Football!! Exclamation points for everybody!!!



Jay 1 May 2011 at 11:59  

Glad you enjoyed your trip to Kobe. Next time, we should meet up. I know all the good barbers in town...

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