Jubilo Iwata 0-1 S-Pulse
---------------------------------------------- Omae 80
Yamaha Stadium, 4pm
Iwata city, Shizuoka prefecture
Murata on for Takagi (18)
Okane on for Radoncic (89)
Takeuchi on for Murata (92)
"One free man defending his home is more powerful than ten hired soldiers."
What a game. What a derby. What a truly intense 90 minutes.
I've experienced few games as ferocious, hard fought and just genuinely competitive as today's Shizuoka Derby. It was everything we'd anticipated, with just the right level of needle between teams, and the perfect level of (for the most part) well behaved hostility between fans. Few Shizuoka Derby's have meant as much, with a loss for Iwata ensuring they would be left with an all but impossible task to stay in J1. Given they have won just three games all season, after the first 15 minutes you'd have been forgiven for mistaking them for a different team. This is one game Iwata did not want to lose, and they played with desire almost visibly oozing from their pores.
We were perhaps taken initially aback by the speed and will with which they took the game to us, but after steadying the ship, and regrouping after Takagi's unfortunate early exit to injury, we matched them. That was no mean feat, and well worthy of credit. I hope to watch the entire game again at some point as it was so breathless I struggle to recall with too much clarity the exact flow of events, but one thing I can say with conviction is that when our goal finally came, it was well deserved. Both teams would have scored two or three but for some frantic, at times heart stopping, defending and goalkeeping. Perhaps a penalty was going to be the only way the net would be found.
Got to give some credit to the referee Koichiro Takushima who had arguably the hardest task of anyone on the pitch. A packed stadium screaming at everything he did, and 22 players going at each other full pelt. He did a good job of keeping a lid on things when they threatened to boil over. I've seen others lose control and start throwing cards around, but the man with the whistle played well.
The stadium was a cauldron and when the goal finally arrived it set up a climax even more frantic than the preceding 80 minutes. My nerves, which were running riot already, were pushed over the limit. The away stand was cramped, overcrowded, with an incline steeper than most. It added to the sense of being behind enemy lines, and the feeling of all being in it together was palpable. The closing stages passed in a blur of flags, sweat, samba, swears, and cheers. When it was at last all over, the party could start. Extended kachiloco, Jubilo's own victory song sang at them, Kingdom Shimizu belted out once more and a wall of J2 related banners to rub in the reality that Iwata are all but down.
As for the banners, security had been trying (unsuccessfully) to confiscate them all game, and there has been a lot of reaction on social media against such flags as those shown below. Personally, I didn't see anything in bad taste to warrant such zealous policing (not by actual police, you understand. There weren't any there). Giving each other grief is the name of the game on derby day, and by the reaction of some you would think personal attacks on players or fans had been made. Neither was the case. I've only seen that once in 10 years following S-Pulse (by Iwata fans, funnily enough).
But, enough about that. It's a lot of hoo ha over nothing. It added a bit of spice to the night certainly, but ultimately it's no more than a bit of banter. If there's any Iwata fans genuinely upset, saddened or have had their faith in S-Pulse fans shaken by a few J2 jibes, I'd be happy to buy them a beer and encourage, no demand, they do the same when the tables are inevitably turned some point in the future.
Well, this week's report is a bit of a mess, but for me that's how the day was. A jumble of nerves, flags, singing, swears, sweat, laughter and tears. I can't accurately convey just what it was like to spend 90 minutes within that heaving mass of orange behind the goal, the eruption when we scored, the celebrations when we won, all shot through with the sense of a historical occasion playing out in front of us. It's perhaps my most memorable derby day, even more so than the 5-1 at Nihondaira in 2009, and that is saying a lot.
Thank you Afshin Ghotbi and thank you S-Pulse for giving us a memory to last a lifetime.
The away end was cramped, oversold and dangerously overcrowded
Longer, but a bit shaky, highlights can be found here. Personal video of Genki's penalty. Alternative here.
Kachiloco! Damn, this was a good one. :)
Singing their song and name to wind them up, followed by waving them goodbye.
Our heroes get a wonderful send off after the game.