Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Nick Cummins – Coca-cola West   3 comments

The financial problems at Avispa have been quite well publicised over the last 12 months.
I’m guessing that they haven’t fully gone away because we are still playing with a fairly make-shift squad of players who are hoping to scrape into the play-offs by the end of the season.

It is quite embarrassing that a city the size of Fukuoka (1.5M, 7th biggest city in Japan) doesn’t have a top league football team, especially when you look at the alumni of players which have come from this prefecture.

It all comes down to money, and news this week that Australian international rugby player Nick Cummins is coming to play for the Red Sparks next season makes me think there must be something really quite wrong with the club behind the scenes.

Nick Cummins is a bonafide world-class rugby player, a player with a chance of playing on the wing for Australia at the next World Cup and an iconic image which makes him one of the most well known players in Australia.
He has now given up his chance of playing in the World Cup (non-domestic players do not get called up for Australia) to earn money to help with some family problems he is having back home.

It has been suggested that the salary he must be receiving to take this step is probably over double what he was getting in Australia. That would equate to something around $600,000 or about 60M yen.

This is where it all gets a bit mystifying to me. The Red Sparks are majority owned by Coca-cola West, the same company which is also one of the biggest stake-holders in Avispa Fukuoka.
Rugby could be seen as little more than a minority sport in Japan. Fukuoka is one of the cities where it is most popular, but it is still only really within a fairly elite group of people.

Football is the biggest sport in Japan in terms of participation, and here we have what is probably the biggest sponsor of the club putting $600,000 into a single player for a rugby club which even if they won the whole Japan Top League wouldn’t make as much publicity as if Avispa managed to promote to J1.

Some of the money thrown away at Avispa has been terrible. Estimated at 40M a year for Makoto Tanaka, 40M for Ramazotti’s 4 substitute appearances, 20M a year for Koga, but it pales into insignificance when compared to 60M for a single player at a time when the club has gone bankrupt and needed to be saved by Fukuya and the fans just 8 months ago.

If Coca-cola West had put the money for Nick Cummins into Avispa Fukuoka; a club they already have links to as one of the biggest stake-holders, we should be able sort out our central defence and midfield and become one of the favorites for promotion.
For that amount of money I would expect that they could get the short front sponsorship for the remainder of this season and become as well known as a supporter of sports in the area as they are for owning the whole club at Red Sparks.

It all seems so obvious that it suggests that there is something else going on behind the scenes which I don’t know about.
For as long as we run out to the pitch with no sponsorship on our shirts (even Regional League teams in the Emperors Cup had shirt sponsors), it will suggest to me that there is something wrong within the ownership structure at the club.

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Posted July 23, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Tochigi SC (youtube / ratings)   Leave a comment

The stadium is starting to fee a very optimistic place. The team look like they know what they are supposed to be doing, and believe in the plan.
Having a settled team and formation helps, but we can now be looked at as one of the form teams in the division.

It will all count for zero if we can’t maintain this form until the end of the year.

Kamiyama: 8.5
Goalkeeper is a position where confidence plays such a huge role. Kamiyama is now playing full of it after a month of good displays, standing 4-5m further forward than he has, and meeting balls with his size. The save to his right in the last 10 minutes was as good as it gets in the J-League.

Abe : 8
His crossing has got much better in recent weeks. The ball along the 6-yard box for the first goal was exactly the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ which he should be aiming for.

Jogo : 8
A good day for the full-backs. I really want Jogo to fall in love with being a right-back, he could be amazing there. He has now scored as many goals from right-back as playing as a forward, he gets the space he wants and can drift in unmarked.

Tsutsumi : 7
Solid, no nonsense performance. I still feel he has more to offer by stepping into midfield at times, but if he feels more comfortable concentrating on defence then the clean sheet is more important.

Lee : 8
There might be more noticeable people on the pitch this season, but he is probably the Player of the Season so far for me. So important for our defence, and has managed to stay fit.

Park : 7.5
Whether he is in midfield or central defence he has become undroppable. Does a lot of ‘quiet’ work. Seeing him put in a big ‘moderating’ tackle on an opposition forward is still my favorite moment of any match. One day he will get sent off by an over-zealous referee, but he’ll get no complaints from anyone because we’ll get so much from him in the games before that point.

Takeda : 7.5
Similar to Park, I think one of the big ‘unseen’ reasons for our recent run of form is the tackling and fight of Takeda in midfield. He does the running and tackling for Nakahara, and like all good midfield terriers knows exactly how to walk the line between hard tackles and picking up yellow or red cards.

Nakahara : 7.5
Having Takeda alongside him has opened up his game. He can now concentrate on his forward passing, and has also been encouraged in the tackling side of his game.

Kanemori : 7
Really wanted to get his 4th goal in 4 games, and came very close with a placed shot against the bar. Idolises Neymar, and it may be his similarity in attitude around the other players which is his biggest asset.

Ishizu : 7
Got a start after scoring last week and did ok without ever really showing he should be in the team every week. He could be our biggest star, but isn’t right now.

Sakai : 7.5
Not sure if he ever envisioned himself as a striker leading the line, but by adding energy and physique to his game he has become a much better player. The best think he could do is try and sign for Avispa and keep getting starts.

Hirai : 6.5
Should be our best player, but there is something still missing. Needs confidence.

Sakata : 7
Very good to see him back, he will certainly make the team better. Now has serious competition for his place.

Morimura : 6
Needs to do something to show why he should be in the team. Getting lots of chances, and looks like he has all the attributes to do well, but needs to start putting it together.

Posted July 3, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match Reports, Opinion

vs. Mito Hollyhock (youtube / ratings)   Leave a comment

June will be remembered for the 5 – 0 away win over Tokyo Verdy in the middle of a good run of form which took us to the edge of the play-offs, but for me this win in the rain against Mito was much more impressive in many ways.

It may have taken a late winner to take all 3 points, but for many of the players I thought they did better here than they had in a blow-out win the week before.

Kamiyama – 8
Was partly at fault for the Mito goal by coming off his line and not getting to the ball, but before and after that had made 3-4 saves which looked sure goals until he managed to get something behind it.

Abe – 6.5
One good cross which Kanemori backheel volleyed onto the bar, but otherwise I thought he had a quiet game.

Mishima – 6
Picked up a soft booking and was substituted. Did nothing wrong.

Lee – 7.5
Showed he can pick a pass to set Jogo free for the first goal. Played Yoshida onside for the Mito goal.

Tsutsumi – 7
He is a player we need to step up if we are to try and get 4th or 5th spot. Hasn’t yet got back to his perfromance level from the start of last season.

Park – 7.5
Solid at the back again.

Nakahara – 7.5
Difficult day for passing, but continued to run and aim for interceptions. He plays as the furthest back at times which means he needs to put his foot in a little more than he does at the moment.

Takeda – 7.5
Turning into my favorite player of the first half of the season. Very good at treading the line between tackling hard and getting a booking. Never gets booked for nothing, and does the most running on the team.

Jogo – 7.5
Good in midfield again, and showed that he is able to play right back with no issues. I still think right-back is his position, the big chance he had to score showing him how coming from deep allows him to drift in unmarked and be very dangerous.

Kanemori – 8
Another goal, 3 in 3 since return from injury and we haven’t lost a game. Hit the bar with a very well improvised volley, and showed his instincts to follow the shot up to score the first goal.

Sakai – 7.5
Glad he could get back from his injury. He is important to the team to make defenders work for their money in the first half and have tiredness a factor for when Ishizu and Hirai come on. I don’t think he is playing a role he ever thought he would, but he is doing it well and getting much better as a footballer as a result. Niigata must be very pleased.

Ishizu – 7.5
Got the winning goal and an interview after the match to show for it. He likes to see himself on TV, and if he understands that being a substitute isn’t a negative but rather a chance to come on and explode he can win us enough games to get us into the play-offs.

Hirai – 7
Doesn’t have the same impact as Ishizu, odd as he looked the man to score goals at the start of the season. Did better than he has and got a good assist.

Morimura – 6.5
Better than he has been, but he needs to work out his future. Is he an attacking midfielder? (in which case he is definitely second best to many players at the club) Is he a midfielder? (In which case he needs to be a lot braver and start going toe-to-toe with opposition and never stop running.

Posted June 24, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Match highlights, Opinion

vs. Tokyo Vredy (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama : 6
Didn’t really have anything to do all afternoon. Still kicking the ball straight into touch, sometimes in our own half.

Mishima : 7
Has come back into the team and runs all game as is his main skill. Still hasn’t put in a decent cross, and I fear that his confidence has been shaken quite badly.

Abe : 7
Did everything needed of him.

Lee : 7
Will be disappointed not to have got a couple of goals in a game which had 4 scored from set pieces, but his main job is defending and we kept a clean sheet.

Tsutsumi : 7
Distribution a little careless, and he needs to be willing to step up into midfield at times if he is playing in a back 3.

Park : 7.5
Starting to look like a player who can genuinely play 2 positions. As such he should be the middle defender who goes into midfield, but I do wonder if his communication with Lee might be better than Tsutsumi’s.

Nakahara : 8
The player who has improved the most in this recent run of form. He really likes to have 3 behind him and a running midfielder as it takes some pressure off him.

Takeda : 8
Excellent delivery from the set pieces. Honest player who will always give 10km+ and not let the team down.

Jogo : 7.5
Much better performance on his return to the team, and it was all about energy. Understandably tired, but showed himself and everyone else how he should be playing.

Kanemori : 8
Infectious energy. 1 goal, 1 assist, it is no coinicdence that his return to the team has seen our best form; and all of this from a player who no-one expected to be playing games at 19.

Sakai : 7.5
Gaining in confidence and leaving it all on the pitch. Picked up an injury when on a hattrick.

Ishizu : 6.5
I really hope he is seeing that he could be the main man for Avispa if he just does the work and dedication of some of the other players. Has all the talent, but needs the application.

Hirai : 5
I don’t know what has happened to this guy. He plays like an Elementary school student who knows he is better than everyone around him so doesn’t do anything but wait for the ball to be given to him.

Morimoto :5.5
Confidence is gone. All he can do in this situation is run, but doesn’t seem inclined to run through his bad form.

Posted June 19, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

Japanese referees (part 2)   1 comment

From what I have witnessed over the last 12 months at Avispa games I’d say it was inevitable, but on the biggest stage Japanese referees were embarrassed this morning as Yuichi Nishimura gifted an opening game win to Brazil (who seem to have some sort of hero status among the Japanese press/public/media).

Taken individually then any of the key decisions could be seen as slightly favorable for Brazil, after 4 or 5 of these (as I’ve seen over and over again at Avispa matches) it spoils the game and takes away from what should be a sporting spectacle.

In the Brazil-Croatia game:
i) Didn’t show a red card to Neymar after striking an opponent in the face (I believe a yellow was correct in this case, but a red is possible).
ii) Penalty given to Brazil with minimal contact from the defender (see Lee Kwang Seon on Nakashima vs. Toyama). No foul in my opinion.
iii) Foul against the Brazil Keeper by the Croatia winger jumping for the ball. Julio Cesar jumps too early, the Croatia player is watching the ball the whole time and gets a full contact on it with his head. No foul in my opinion, could have resulted in an equaliser.

Reading the English press, and listening to English radio today it was been almost unanimous that these decisions are wrong.
There are calls now that key world cup games should not be awarded to referees from Japan, or other minor leagues around the world as they are not capable to deal with the pressure decisions which need to be made.

Is this what the J-League had hoped for?
I believe that it has had a negative effect on opinion on Japanese football around the world.

The saddest part is that it is entirely predictable, and entirely avoidable.
Referees in this country live an entitled life with none of their decisions ever put under any scrutiny, so have no incentive to try to improve the quality of their profession.

When people have come in and said that standards need to be improved (such as Pusnik in the last 18 months) then they are seen as being unreasonable, angry and I feel currently at Avispa made targets of.
What the J-League now needs to do is try to listen to these people, especially those who have experience of the game outside of Japan and can try to give insight into how it is played around the world, rather than fight against them.

Next time Pusnik complains that rules are not being applied correctly in a game, maybe the referees should actually review the tapes and see if actually he is correct, rather than see him as an angry gaijin and send him to the stands while ignoring everything he is saying.

You’ve been embarrassed on the world stage J-League; maybe now it’s time to start listening.

Quotes from the Croatian team:

Manager Niko Kovac : “If anybody saw this was a penalty anywhere in the stadium, raise their hands. If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties.

If that was a penalty, we don’t need to play football any more. Let’s play basketball. It’s a shame. We talk about respect, but that wasn’t respect – Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s how you start the World Cup, we’d all better give it up and go home”

Defender Dejan Lovren (who gave away the penalty):
“I can hardly hold back the tears. Why don’t they just hand out the trophy to Brazil right away? Everything is going their way, everyone is saying they must win it, so why do we play then?

The ref didn’t even speak English. I asked him why did he give the penalty and he just mumbled something. My team-mates tell me the same thing – how can you have an international ref who is officiating the opening match, but he doesn’t speak English and you can’t even speak to him?”

Captain Dario Srna:
“It’s hard to stay cool-headed after a defeat like that. We expected the referee to be biased, but not like this … You know, they always tell us about fair play, the refs even hold meetings with us captains about that – and then they do this. But we must begin our preparations for Cameroon, in five days nobody will ask us how we lost to Brazil.”

Had this happened in a J-League match then none of these quotes would have been published in any newspaper or magazine, or broadcast on TV in any way.

The saddest thing being that this guy is probably the best referee in Japan and when he refereed for us against Kyoto was clearly better than any other referee we’d had in other games this season.

Posted June 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. JEF United (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama – 7.5
Kept the clean sheet, and made some good saves with decent positioning without ever doing anything amazing. Best work was a near post block on Yazawa early on.

Mishima – 7.5
Solid defensively, and works well when going forward and passing short. Still has problems with his crossing; if that can get sorted he’ll be a decent player.

Abe – 8
Ran all game, his endeavor lead to our goal. Heads the ball well for a short guy. Has the demeanor of someone who doesn’t seem to care, but at times that can be good as he seems calm under pressure.

Lee – 8.5
Got his head on everything which came his way and attacked the ball well when he thought he could get near it with his feet. My Man of the Match.

Tsutsumi – 8
Blocked well. His long passing is decent, as shown by the cross for the goal. Needs to be prepared to step up more often and let the midfield move 5-10m higher.

Koga – 6.5
Was doing well and adding needed physicality to the team. Others play better when he is in the team. Got himself sent off after making a horrible mistake on a back-pass.

Park – 7.5
We need his height and aggression in midfield. Could do a little more to be closer to the ball, but works well when he is in possession.

Nakahara – 8
Best game I’ve seen from him in a while. I still want more long range shooting, but his tackling, running and passing was great. Needs to stay aggressive.

Kanemori – 8
Tired as the game went on, but like with Koga his aggression is infectious and makes the rest of the team step up. Took his goal very well.

Ishizu – 7
Would have hoped to have scored, and was doing a bit much on the ball at times. Looks a threat whenever he is on the pitch.

Sakai – 7
Worked hard. I would have given him a 7.5, except he spoiled it a little with his last touch of the game, shooting from distance after seeing he was about to come off.

Hirai – 6.5
One good run in the box. Tough game for him, asked to defend as soon as he came on after Koga was sent off.

Ushinohama – 7.5
Doesn’t disappoint when given a chance. One run he went on relieved the pressure on the defence and lifted the crowd and team.

Yamaguchi – 7
Made no mistakes, and helped keep the game scoreless after coming on.

Posted June 9, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion

vs. Kataller Toyama (ratings)   Leave a comment

Kamiyama : 7
Has done well since his return to the team. Caught the ball well, and released quickly to help the counter for the 2nd goal. Kicking still poor and put the pressure straight back onto us with a kick into touch after 92 minutes.

Abe : 7
Has a cool head, isn’t as good as he thinks he is though. Could be a plyer, but only if he starts developing his forward game. Good in the air for a short guy.

Jogo : 8.5
Nakajima won’t have many tougher days this season. Tackled hard, won every ball which came his way, led the team by example. I’d like to see him get forward more, it should be his strength from full-back, but actually his defending was his key skill today.

Lee : 7.5
Cleared off the line again. Teams can’t put balls direct into our third, he gets his head onto everything.

Tsutsumi : 7.5
Solid in defence. I like him trying to get forward when he can, he can pick a pass.

Takeda : 7.5
Intelligent player. If he keeps getting better in the anchor role it is going to really help us put together a push into 4th/5th.

Morimura : 7.5
His best game for us. Needs to keep running and tackling hard, that is his zone and helps him to stop thinking about what he is doing too much and relax into the game.

Sakata : 8.5
I was really glad he got awarded Man of the Match. At 31 years old he has become a whole new player and set the pace for the rest of the team with his running, battling and tackling.

Sakai : 7
Got the goal. Had a few decent touches and is actually quite powerful in the air and as a hold-up player.

Ishizu : 8
Great goal. Should have had at least 1 penalty with his direct running. If he could just add a little better decision making he’d be a top half J1 player.

Hirai : 5
Came on as the team got tired and immediately looked the most tired player on the pitch. Does nothing more than score goals, and when he doesn’t that means he does nothing.

Punosevac : 5.5
Was brought on to try and hold the ball up the pitch and help a tiring team. Did it a little bt, but still doesn’t really get off the ground much.

Mitsunaga : 7.5
Great little cameo. Looks like he is already the best crosser of the ball at the club. Will be playing left wing by the final 10 games of the season.

Posted May 13, 2014 by avispafukuoka in Opinion