Sunday, 28 September 2008

Kashima 2-0 S-Pulse

Well, it took them four attempts, but champions Antlers finally overcame S-Pulse. After beating them twice at Nihondaira (once in the cup, once in the league), and holding them to a goalless draw at their place, Kashima were not about to let themselves lose any more ground on Nagoya and Omiya at the top of the table.

I wasn't either at the game or watching on the box (so sue me) but the stats tell the story:

Antlers -- S-Pa

16 Shots 8
9 Goalkicks 12
7 Cornerkicks 1
22 Freekicks 11

Stats alone are never that much of a gauge, but by the looks of it, Kashima were desereved winners, and we only won when it come kicking them all over the pitch and not having anyone sent off.

Ah well. Onwards and upwards! Next up is Tokyo away this Saturday. Being so close, you'd probably think we'd be going up to the Ajisuta, but you'd be wrong. We already have a previous engagement with a certain band called Radiohead who we're going to see that night. Tokyo are on form, and getting three points from them won't be easy.

OK, I'm off to do something other than type at a keyboard. have a good week! For anyone who's interested, here's the highlights:

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

S-Pa 1-0 Tokyo Verdy

1-0 to S-Pulse!
Hara (79)

Att. 15206

A late goal from supersub Hara meant all three points went the way of S-Pulse, and we could enjoy some more daytime fireworks! Next up is Kashima Antlers on Sunday Septmber 28th (tomorrow!).

Apologies for the lack of report - my laptop died and I've just today picked up a shiney new Sony Vaio. It's lovely. :)

Anyway, here are the highlights from beating Verdy!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

El Loco and The Flag of The Kings. S-Pa's Victory Dance!

There is a near inexhaustible array of chants and songs down at the 'Daira, and at any visit you will hear an endless cycle of the songs from kick off to final whistle and beyond. There are three lists which they get drawn from: Team songs, player songs and victory songs. The first list has been built up steadily since we joined the J. league in 1992 and grows annually thanks in no small part to the band which sets up camp behind the goal and plays non-stop all game. The second list fluctuates annually, but the last list has been the most steady of the three.

The Victory Songs list is only two long, but of all our many chants, they are two that every S-Pulse fan needs to know. The first is Oja no Hata and,
as it has been for years, is performed after every home victory. The latter of today's songs always follows it, but is also taken on the road, as any team beaten at home by S-Pulse will testify!

Oja no Hata (The Flag of The Kings)
Loco Loco

王者の旗 (The Flag of The Kings)

The first is the official club song
and is called Oja no Hata - translated best (to my mind) as The Flag of The Kings. As can be seen in this video, it's a good old fashioned scarves-aloft sing-along family favourite which wouldn't sound out of place as a national anthem:

The lyrics too are full of thunderous passion and glorious imagery and they can be found along with the full score here. However, for non-Japanese speakers, how on earth can you be expected to join in? The answer in simple, for someone (me) has sat down and transliterated it into English! So print this page off and take it along to Nihondaira. There you can amaze your fellow S-Pa fans with your awesome Japanese singing skills!

王者の旗 Oja no Hata
(The Flag of The Kings)

(1st verse)

Kimi wa mitaka ano hitomi wo
Kimi wa mitaka ano yuuki wo
Saa yukou orenji senshi
Hashiri dase warera no kodou
Hokori tataku mae oja no hata
S-Pulse, Shimizu S-Pulse!

(2nd verse)

Kimi wa mitaka ano faitto wo
Kimi wa mitaka ano yuushi wo
Furikazase ozora no moto
Moetagiru warera no honou
Sekai ni habatake oja no hata
S-Pulse, Shimizu S-Pulse!

(Rousing finale)

Hokori tataku mae warera no yume
S-Pulse! S-Pulse!
Oja S-Pulse!

And if that, when sung by thousands of fans with flags-a-waving and fireworks exploding all around, doesn't get the hairs on your neck standing up, check your pulse, because you just may be dead. Now presented here, for quite possibly the first time ever anywhere, is an English translation of S-Pulse theme song. A couple of notes first, though.

1) This is entirely my own interpretation of the lyrics and their meaning in Japanese. I'm not a native Japanese speaker by any stretch, so any missed nuance or misinterpreted lyrics are entirely my own mistake.

2) A lot gets lost in translation, and while I tried to stick as close as possible to the original lyrics, a too-literal translation sounds both unnatural and fails to scan. To ensure the lyrics in English fit the music, (and where possible, rhymed!) I took a fair amount of poetic license.

Well here it is, in English, Oja no Hata - The Flag of The Kings! (Version 1.0.0)

王者の旗 Oja no Hata
(The Flag of The Kings)

(1st verse)

Did you see as I saw, the fire in their eyes?

Did you see as I saw, their courage never die?

March on! Shimizu’s brave orange soldiers

Run out fast and strong, to the rhythm of our heart

Dancing high, flying proud, it’s The Flag of the Kings:

S-Pulse, Shimizu S-Pulse!

(2nd verse)

Did you see as I saw, eleven heroes fight?

Did you see as I saw, courage, spirit and light?

Raised up for all to see, under Shizuoka’s sky

With the flames from in our soul our flag burns bright

Soaring high ‘round the world is The Flag of the Kings:

S-Pulse, Shimizu S-Pulse!

(Rousing finale)

Dancing high, flying proud, all our dreams are brought to life by

S-Pulse! S-Pulse!

The Kings of S-Pulse!

Run it past the music a couple of times, and it doesn't sound too bad, if I may say so myself! So now you just need to learn the words and sing along with each victory party! There is however another song you simply have to know, and that brings us nicely onto...

Loco - Adjective. Slang: insane [Spanish: crazy]

Anyone who's been to an S-Pulse game will be aware of the overriding Latin influence which infuses each song, chant and gesture of the S-Pulse hardcore. Of the many different chants, one which was born at the start of the 2008 season and comes straight from the Spanish lexicon has become the new signature song of S-Pulse - Loco Loco!

The chant has been borrowed from Sãu Paulo FC of Brazil's supporter group Loco Loco Independente. A video of the original version can be found here. There are two version of Loco Loco (Japanese: ロコロコ roko roko) us S-Pulse fans sing. The first is sung during the game and goes a little something like this:

(Clap! Clap-clap! Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap!) Hey!
(Clap! Clap-clap! Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap!) Ole!

Looocoo! Loco loco loco loco! (Meu Campion, Ole!)
Looocoo! Loco loco loco loco! (Independente!)
Looocoo! Loco loco loco loco! (Meu Campion, Ole!)
Looocoo! Loco loco loco loco! (Independente!)


The above is accompanied with frantic pogoing, and here's how it looked on the road, away at Kashima in 2010:

This is all well and good, but the real beauty of Loco Loco comes after the final whistle when S-Pulse have secured another three points. Before our regular victory song of Oja no Hata, we Loco it up one more time.

It's the same song, but this time you join arms with your fellow Oranges and sideways conga along your row. After each Meu Campion, Ole! and Independente! you change direction - simple! One recent addition to the performance which made it's début at the Sapporo home victory is that everyone crouches down during the clapping before springing up into the conga, thusly:

It looks bloody awesome, I'm sure you'll agree. :) Loco Loco has been seen on the road up and down the country this season and with all thoughts on the Nabisco Cup Final on November 1st, all many S-Pa fans want is to Loco Loco around the Kokuritsu! A quick You Tube search reveals many other examples of our new theme song, so watch a few, then get down Nihondaira or the national stadium to join the most enjoyable victory dance in the J. League!
Looooooooocooooo! Loco loco loco locooo!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Kobe 0-1 S-Pa

S-Pulse beat Vissel Kobe 1-0 with a stoppage time winner from Okazaki, with the win dragging us up to the mid-table respectability of 9th. It's the highest we've been in the table since I can remember! The game couldn't have been much closer with 12 shots from Kobe to our 11. Possession was almost a perfect 50/50 too. The last minute winner came from one of our seven corners, and nicely balances out the 88th minute winner Kobe scored against us at Nihondaira earlier in the year. Okachan has been banging in the goals of late, which is just what we need leading up to the Nabisco Cup final!

Next up is Verdy at home on Tuesday. A win there and any fears of J2 next year should be properly extinguished. Given Verdy's poor form of late, our good run (only one defeat from eight, and that was to possible champs, Nagoya), and the fact that the last time we played them at home we destroyed them 5-0, everything points to only one thing: a resounding home victory in from of 15000 delirious S-Pa fans! We Believe!!!

In other news, Jubilo's home defeat to Marinos coupled with a resurgent JEF beating Sapporo means the blues are four points from safety and only two points from an automatic relegation spot. Desperate times in Iwata... The Shizuoka Derby in November takes on a whole new dimension! If Jubilo aren't able to pull themselves out of the danger zone before then, a defeat by us would leave them with just three games to save their J1 status. It's gonna be a hell of a run in!!

Highlights from Kobe!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Nabisco Cup Final Ticket News

Two hours after doors opened the line was still huge - a scene repeated around the other S-Pulse shops
With the countdown to the Kokuritsu well under way, cup final tickets went on sale to S-Pulse fan club members yesterday morning, a day after going on sale to Oita fans. Presumably the one day discrepancy was intended to give Trinita supporters a head start to balance the fact that, come November 1st, they'll be travelling just shy of 500 miles! For the majority of us Shizuokans, it's a far less daunting prospect of a mere 100 mile hop, skip and jump up to Tokes. As expected, the demand for tickets from S-Pa fans has been huge. As of 11am yesterday, fan club membership card holders were entitled to buy up to a staggering NINE tickets each. With seemingly everyone using their full quota, after just 90 minutes the state of play looked something like this:

With that meaning this:
The only tickets left available are the 2000 yen seats in the light blue unreserved zones. S-Pulse will be occupying the 'away' end on the right of the above diagram. By all accounts there are not a great number of these remaining, so by the time tickets go on general sale on Saturday (September 20th) we could be looking at a total sell out of the S-Pulse end. Tickets are already appearing on Yahoo Auction, so feel free to buy one of those, and then bop the seller on the nose for their bare-faced profiteering.

If Oita fail to sell out their allocation, and I don't doubt for a second that S-Pa fans will start buying up any remaining free zone tickets, regardless of the fact they're for the Oita section. The official information from the J. League can be found (in Japanese) here. It's worth noting that users of the Pia service can pre-save tickets from tomorrow. Other than that, get down your nearest club shop or Lawson, Family Mart or Circle K on Saturday!

Family Mart / Circle K Sankus: P Code: 812-907
Lawson: L Code: 31228

Good luck!

Here was the queue outside the Shizuoka branch of the S-Pulse Dream House around 12:30pm on Sunday. At 10am it had been nearly four times as long...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Another Glorious Victory - S-Pa 3-1 Sapporo

Hot on the heels of last week's semi final thriller we played Sapporo Consadole yesterday in front of just over 15 000 and to be fair, a decent support from Sapporo especially when one considers the distance.

Before the match the sun was splitting the trees and as I walked up the hill towards the glory that is Nihondaira Stadium, I found myself wondering if I should have put sun screen on. It all seemed light years away as the rain pelted down on us in the second half!

Sapporo sportingly brought their mascot down with them, Dore-Kun, and he joined in the Pal Chan show, with considerable flair, it has to be said - Grampus Kun was cute, but he can't really dance!
Moving on to the game, it started off much the same as the rest of the season, with the Pulse looking strong and having plenty of chances, but no ball in the back of the net. Just as I was starting to get frustrated and wonder if the recent practice of scoring goals had become unfashionable again, Edamura rescued me and gave us the 1-0 lead we deserved going into half time.

The second half was much the same, except that it started raining and we were all getting wet. The chances kept coming and Oka-chan "got the goal" with 62 minutes on the clock. Sapporo had a few corners, but with Kaito in goal there was a little room to relax - surely he wouldn't drop the ball at an inopportune moment, or fall over his own feet, or.... well, you know. Its not that I don't like Nishibe, I think he can be fantastic on occasion and has pulled off some stellar saves, it's just that they tend to be followed by some tremendous cock-up.

Nishizawa upped it to 3-0 at 78, and it was the icing on the cake for the party behind the goals. There had been a couple of goal worthy attempts since Oka-chan's, and it was good to see the ball bouncing off the net once more. Just before it, the UK Ultras team had been laughing at some of the missed shots - just goes to show what being 2-0 up does for you, usually we would all be screaming with frustration as the ball soared wide or is passed to the invisible man, but yesterday it was amusing.

There was a sneaky last minute consolation for Consadole, but it and the weather couldn't have upset our parade - wet, bouncing and happy, we prepared for dancing girls and some ロコロコ action. Even Pal-chan broke free from his minder and ran out (skidding on wet) to give us three victory cartwheels when he knows he's not allowed out to play in the rain, and was told off on his way back, but that's why we love him!
last minute action

Oh yes, and we have our cup final tickets, and I for one am grateful to the Ultras who went and fetched them this morning. It's gonna be one hell of a day, and with a few more scorelines like this one, I reckon we'll even manage to finish in the top half of the table.

Match highlights:

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Gamba 2-3 S-Pa - Next stop Tokyo!!!

And that, as they say, is that! S-Pulse beat Gamba 3-2 on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, and we're off to the Kokuritsu on November 1st!
S-Pulse's route to the final after winning Group B (picture from official J. League site)

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday other than mooching around the S-Pulse Dream Plaza, stuffing your face with curry, watching films and shopping? Despite the over-riding football theme of the whole area, such was the sterling job my better half did in keeping my mind off our semi final second leg, that when five o'clock rolled around, I'd almost forgotten there was a game to watch! So it was that I walked round the corner to the S-Pulse Dream House to meet Fuz and Takumi and claim our seats in front of the big screen. Despite getting there two hours early, the place was already filling up, and by kick off a crowd well into triple figures steeled themselves for 90 minutes which would make or break our season.

We didn't have to wait long, as a stonking strike from Yamamoto on just three minutes curled past the beleaguered Fujigaya to cancel out the away goal advantage Gamba held. From that moment on the impetus was with the visitors, and even after Roni had made the most of a slack piece of defending from Aoyama to draw level, the momentum was still clearly with S-Pulse. Knowing a second away goal would leave Gamba with a mountain to climb, we kept pressing and went close on a number of occasions. Like the home leg, we were often left frustrated, and going in at half time still level had a lot of us wondering if just wasn't going to be our night.

We needn't have worried so much. As news of an Oita victory in the other semi started to filter through, within a minute of the restart Edamura put it past two defenders and Fujigaya to send the travelling hundreds, and the thousands watching back in Shiz, into raptures. Ten minutes later it was that man again as Edamura put us 3-1 up. Dream House descended into euphoric bedlam as we knew this goal now meant Osaka needed to win 4-3 to get to defend the title they'd won last year. It was a long half hour, and with Gamba throwing everything they had at us, they inevitably pulled one back on 79 minutes. But it was far too little, far too late, and they knew it. With their front line of Lucas and Roni getting increasingly frustrated, they both saw yellow before the ref put them out of their misery. After four minutes of stoppage time, it was all over - S-Pulse are heading to the Nabisco Cup final for the first time since we won it back in 96!
Flying the flag on a previous visit to the Kokuritsu
We'll face a team who have surprised many people this year, Oita Trinita, in the final. Currently sitting level on points with Antlers who are second, Oita, who only joined the J. League in 1999, are going for their first major cup. While Oita fans have to travel all the way up from Kyushu, we're a mere hour on the bullet, so watch out Tokyo - 20000 Shizuokans are coming to town, and we fully plan on homejacking the national stadium! With the final only seven days before the away derby with Jubilo, the possibility of victory in Tokyo followed by a gloating chance in front of the sky blue toe-rags is almost too much of a mouth watering prospect to take!

This video is from the Kyoto home game a couple of months back, but adequately conveys the feeling around Shimizu last night!

It was a hell of a game, and we fully deserved the win. I'll be adding some highlights as soon as I find some online, but for now here's a video of the last thirty seconds as taken at Dream House:

The cup final - let's 'ave it!!!

Friday, 5 September 2008

S-Pa 1-1 Gamba - Just 90 Minutes from Wembley!

Well OK, maybe not Wembley, but for an Englishman, the cup final and Wembley Stadium go hand in hand. It's hard to mention one without evoking images of the other, and as S-Pulse head into the second leg of their League Cup semi final with Gamba Osaka, S-Pa could soon be on their way to Japan's own national stadium for the first time in nearly three years!

It's going to be a long, hard 90 minutes before anything is decided though. If the first leg was anything to go by, Gamba will be physical, organised and fighting for everything in the quest to defend the title they won last year. The home leg ended 1-1, which I came away from feeling slightly hard done by, but buoyed by the fact that a score draw over 1-1 (or a win, of course) will see us through. Another 1-1 and than it's into extra time and penalties. No thanks!

As is becoming usual, we out shot our opponents and we had far more corners. The sad fact was that half the corners came from attacks which should by rights have borne better attempts on goal. Still, for long periods we run Gamba ragged, and while we rode our luck on occasion, the rampant Hara surging down the left wing helped add to the myriad chances we were crafting. Despite going close several times, even striking wood with the game's last piece of action, there was no way through. The Gamba defence collapsed with exhaustion on the whistle, but the orange ranks behind the goal didn't let up for a good five minutes more. Despite the lack of a win, there was real optimism and fight in the Nihondaira night air - just what we need to head into the 2nd leg with.

I'll be watching on Sunday, not from the Banpaku, but from the S-Pulse Dream House in Shimizu, serving those unable to head out west to Kansai of a Sunday evening. The heart is willing, but the 6am start on the Monday means a far more measured evening spent in Shizuoka is in order! Should we prevail, we'll be facing either Nagoya or Oita in the final, with that game also balanced precariously at 1-1. I can see an S-Pa Nagoya final drawing the biggest Nabisco Cup Final crowd since over 56000 crammed in in 2002 to watch Kashima dispense with Urawa. With the last four finals having only three goals to share between them, and with the last three finals seeing crowds over 10000 short of capacity, here's hoping we get to play Nagoya, fill the place up, and win 4-3 with a stoppage time winner! Not sure my heart could handle it though!

Sunday - bring it on!!

Sorry, no pics from the game as I forgot to charge my camera! I promise to snap a couple from Dream House on Sunday (if we go through!).