Yokohama F.Marinos 2015 Season Preview

Previews of many of the J1 2015 teams are up on the JapanFooty website including Yokohama F.Marinos 2015 Season Preview by our very own Tony D.

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Fist Pumps & Clean Sheets: Three Seasons Under Yasuhiro Higuchi

In late November of 2014, Yokohama F-Marinos made the announcement that Yasuhiro Higuchi, our coach since 2012, would be stepping down at the end of the season. With his last game taking place against FC Tokyo at Ajinomoto stadium on December 6th, F-Marinos fans backed their departing leader and asked to see ‘more Higuchi fist pumps’ (see below) before a season that had ultimately proven disappointing drew to a close. A passionate manager, I think it’s fair to say that Higuchi’s tenure at Marinos Town has been a successful one overall, and between the agonisingly close title campaign of 2013 and the Emperor’s cup victory on the first day of 2014, it’s my belief that fans will remember him fondly. But just how did Higuchi come so close to picking up the title with F-Marinos? How did he manage to turn around a side that had finished mid table for the vast majority of the preceding decade and take them to within 90 minutes of their first league championship since 2004? I’ll attempt to explain just that, and look at why season 2014 took such a turn for the worse, culminating with his decision to leave the side at the end of the year.

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Via @hiyomarinos

As with any worthwhile project, the foundations of Higuchi’s F.Marinos side were solid. Defensive stability and a possession game were honed in season 2012, his first year, and ultimately the key to our successes in 2013. F-Marinos have finished with the lowest number of goals conceded in the league in two of his three seasons at the helm, and that stability is as a result of two factors; consistency of team selection and his preference to play two deep-lying defensive midfielders. For a considerable time prior to his arrival at the club, Yuji Nakazawa and Yuzo Kurihara made up the heart of the defence and Higuchi never sought to change this. With Yuzo Kobayashi playing well at right-back in the season prior to his arrival, the coach brought club legend Dutra back to fill the left-back berth, despite observers suggesting that combining the ageing Bomber and Dutra was not the smartest of moves. Higuchi was never overly ambitious with either player, and very obviously played them within their limitations, as the players they were at the time and not the players they were a decade ago. Dutra, who was prone to a rampage up the left-wing throughout games, was always covered by one of the two defensive midfielders, with either one drifting over towards his left-back slot so as not to leave Bomber exposed. With Dutra retiring in 2014 and Bomber showing the first real signs that he too may be a waning force, change will come under new leadership. That back four will, however, be remembered as a vintage F.Marinos defence in the years to come.

The protection offered to the defence by the two sitting midfield players cannot be overstated. Preferring a 4-2-3-1 formation, Higuchi set out to concede less goals from the off, sacrificing men in attack in the process. In a league in which defensive solidity and balance is often exchanged for something of a battle charge towards the opposite goal, a disciplined defensive midfield pairing would stand us in good stead, and leave us much less susceptible to the counter-attack. The height and physical presence of Seitaro Tomisawa alongside the steady Kosuke Nakamachi afforded both our wingers and full-backs the opportunity to move forward safe in the knowledge that they had adequate cover. Nakamachi, for me, was the weak link in the midfield, and brought much less to the team than his team mate Tomisawa. Despite offering up impressive performances there when deputising, Shingo Hyodo was never given the opportunity to partner ‘Tomi’ as a sitting midfielder, instead playing as a winger more often than not. A loss to the side, as his energy and ability to read the game still is a real asset to the team when deployed there.

For all that he brought to the club, Higuchi had his faults. He was a stubborn coach in his team selection, and proved himself over time to be almost totally inflexible tactically, failing to revert from his preferred 4-2-3-1 despite often having a lack of players to fill the positions required. Football fans the world over will look at their own beloved side and spot the frailties or opportunities for improvement. At every club, there’s a young player in the squad that shows promise, and it’s always a travesty that he isn’t playing more. “If the coach would only listen to us!”. F.Marinos fans, more than most, have spoke of such players throughout the reign of Higuchi. Matsumoto Sho, Takuya Kida, Andrew Kumagai, Jin Hanato, Fabio, Yuta Narawa…. I could go on. All young players, all worth a run in the side, almost all not given a real opportunity to establish themselves in the team under Higuchi. In fact, it could be argued that the only young player really given an opportunity at the club during his tenure was Manabu Saito, who no doubt impressed in 2012 but really broke through in 2013 after the departure of Yuji Ono.

In season 2013 Higuchi proved himself loyal to a fault when it came to his preferred players. He knew who he felt his best options were and he picked them, for better or worse. Over the course of season 2013, 9 players in the first-team squad started over 30 of the 34 J-league matches, with Bomber starting every match of the season. Despite the long summer break offering the players some respite a lack of rotation would ultimately cost us dearly, and by September, 6 months in to the season, we looked a spent force. Almost every remaining fixture was a grind to watch. We picked up a handful of 1-0 wins, with our 37-year old striker Marquinhos failing to hit the net once in the final 3 months of the season. If not for some resolute defending, coupled with the influence and goals of captain Shunsuke Nakamura, our title challenge would have crumbled by October as opposed to late November. Our players were out on their feet, yet Higuchi made no effort to offer them any rest. We surrendered the top-spot with a whimper on the final day of the season and fatigue was, in my opinion, the biggest factor. Higuchi could have rotated his squad without losing too much quality throughout the season, but chose not to. He showed his limitations as a coach in doing this. Ultimately, the season would offer some success in the form of the Emperor’s cup victory on New Years Day against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the side that had pipped us to the title just weeks before. I enjoyed that game, but it felt somewhat hollow given the events of the previous month, in truth. The first league title in a decade, what looks to have been Shunsuke and Bomber’s last real attempt to win the title in otherwise illustrious careers, had slipped from our grasp. It cannot be argued that, whilst Higuchi had done well to take the side to the summit of the table for so long, he was ultimately a large factor in our inability to cross the finishing line and claim the title.

Season 2014 never really got started for F.Marinos. After picking up 3 victories in the opening 3 ties, we failed to win another game for 7 rounds. By the time we finally picked up 3 points with a home victory over newly-promoted Gamba Osaka, any real hope we had had for the season had vanished. Our league position could have been worse, but the evidence on the pitch suggested our players had lost their appetite. Our signings over the close season boasted some well-known players from around the league, but had failed to remedy our biggest issue; putting the ball in the back of the net. Jungo Fujimoto, Yuta Mikado, Ito Sho, Takuro Yajima and Takumi Shimohira were signed, with Sho set to take up the role of Marquinhos, who had left to join Vissel Kobe, as our solo striker. To place such a responsibility on the shoulders of a relatively unproven young striker was a risk, but quite how much input Higuchi had in these signings is difficult to say. As with many other J.League clubs, F.Marinos transfer dealings can be strange, and are often shrouded in mystery. It appears that in the close season prior to season 2014, the club sought out what they believed was best value for money when dealing with agents, rather than what was evidently required in the starting line-up.

Seemingly learning from his mistakes in 2013, Higuchi did in fact rotate the side a little more in 2014, but did principally stick to his trusted players. Whether it was due to injury, or just the sheer volume of matches to be played over the course of the season, most of the squad players were at least involved in some first team fixtures, with Fabio and Dutra, who had been dropped since the beginning of the season, both coming in to play in the ACL ties. Despite this rotation, performances on the park were poor. We were patchy; winning games we had no right to win only to follow them up by losing in ties we should have won convincingly. The introduction of Brazilian forward Rafinha in the mid-summer break gave us a shot in the arm, and the muscular forward looked like the exact type of player we needed to convert our chances, but injury put paid to any hope of a mid-season revival, with ‘the RAF’ heading back to Brazil in early October with a foot injury forcing a premature end to his season. With Rafinha out, there was no one to turn to for goals and after picking up two wins and a draw in our final three league matches, F-Marinos finished a mediocre 7th in the table, 4 points behind our rivals Kawasaki and 12 points off of top spot.

When the news broke that Higuchi was leaving I was left feeling a little torn. The frustrations felt watching the side for the previous 15 months in particular were set aside to be replaced by a feeling of gratitude. Of course, Higuchi was a frustrating coach to support at times for the reasons I’ve noted above, but he was a passionate guy and a likeable character. It can’t be disputed that he was overly reliant on a small group of players, but what a group of players they were, and look at what he almost accomplished with them. He created a vintage F-Marinos side and for that we will remember his time at the club fondly. We at Tricolore Pride wish Yasuhiro Higuchi all the best in his new position at Ventforet Kofu and look forward to welcoming him back to the Nissan Stadium later in the season!

 

The Higuchi all-time XI:

 

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Quick Six: 

1. Who was the best player to play under Higuchi at F-Marinos? 

Tony: Nakamura Shunsuke.

Jamie: Yep, I agree.

2. Who was the best young player to play under him? 

T: 24-year old Manabu.

J: Either one of Manabu or Yuji Ono.

3. Most improved player? 

T: If not Manabu then Hyodo Shingo.

J: Tomisawa. Whilst we have better players, I don’t think anyone has grown in to their position more under Higuchi. A guy who was a bit of a journeyman before joining but really came in to his own in 2013. Solid, vocal, tough-tackling and passionate, Tomi has grown in to a great player for us and someone we missed greatly when he was out injured in 2014.

4. Your favourite game during his time as manager? 

T: Coming back to win against Reds at Saitama stadium in July 2013.

J: Kawasaki Frontale 0 – 3 Yokohama F.Marinos in May 2014. Shunsuke crosses the ball, Bomber volleys it in.

5. The worst game of his spell as manager?

T: Round 31 of the league in 2013 when we lost 2-1 to Nagoya at home is tied with the final game of that season against Kawasaki.

J: Yokohama F.Marinos 0 – 2 Albirex Niigata. 30th Nov 2013.

6. Your fondest memory of Yasuhiro Higuchi? 

T: The Emperor’s Cup win at Kokuritsu on New Years day 2014. A wonderful day!

J: The fist pumps.

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Photo credit: F-Marinos.com

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New Season, New Uniform!

After a disappointing season 2014 and the fanfare of the close season, the new season is almost upon us. The ritual of watching through your fingers to see who will (and won’t) renew is over, the players are back at training… we’ve even got a new coaching team in place. So what’s next I hear you ask? It’s the jersey launch of course. Straight from the Nissan headquarters in MM21.And lucky for you, we’ve got an opinion on them and an expert in the ranks in the shape of Dan!

First of all, here are this seasons jerseys in all their glory:

Home:

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Away:

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Goalkeepers 1st:

Screenshot 2015-01-26 22.57.51Goalkeepers 2nd:Screenshot 2015-01-26 22.57.57Goalkeepers 3rd:Screenshot 2015-01-26 22.58.04

What’s your thoughts? Here are ours!

@stuartcw :”I was a bit surprised by the gold shirt and showed the fans around me who were at the Daisuke Oku memorial match and they seemed to be pleasantly surprised. I don’t think that I will get an away shirt but I said that about last year’s DayGlo shirt. In the end that shirt grew on me. I’ll wait to see the gold one in flesh. I did though really like the black 3rd goalkeeper shirt but that was unfortunately sold out within a couple of hours. I almost bought the Sanfreece-Purple 2nd goalkeeper shirt thinking it was a dark blue but thankfully the online store crashed and deleted that order. I’m collecting shirts of players which played for the youth team so I may just get a home shirt of one of those that I haven’t got.”

@TricoBren : “One is blue, one is gold. Both are new, neither are old. B.Wimsett”

@marinosjamie : “I’m a fan of the home shirt, but I won’t buy it as it looks a wee bit too much like a rangers jersey for me to wear in Glasgow. I like the way they’ve integrated the gold in to the home shirt, it’s a nice addition and adds a bit of accent. I was initially a bit taken aback by the away shirt but it’s grown on me after a few days so I think I’ll try to pick one up in the near future.”

@CND_Marino : “The home shirt for me is absolutely stunning. They’ve redeemed themselves a bit with this as I was a bit disappointed with the two tone redux from the 2002 season. I knew right away it was a must have. I also loved the new 3rd choice Black GK kit, it was no surprise to see this as the first shirt to sell out. F.Marinos this season had chosen a new ordering service website. Rakuten whom usually handles sales was dropped for the shirt sales as some have noted because F.Marinos were having to pay a big portion to the Online sales giants. Unfortunately for F.Marinos their new web server was incapable of handling the large amount of fans placing orders. After nearly an hour of refreshing their webpage I was finally able to luckily place my order. I opted not to buy the Away Uniform for the first time since the 2011 season. It’s a complete joke of a kit and would’ve much preferred any of the GK uniforms as our 2nd choice kit.”

@tgr_tsuru : “All that is gold does not glitter” or rather, “All that glitters is not gold”.

Drawing the most attention has been the away shirt. In some photos it seemed more of a bronze colour, however we know now it is a very glittery gold. In the photo of Shunsuke wearing the whole kit, the gold shirt with the black shorts makes quite a good combination. However, similarly to last year’s orange, a whole team running around in glittery gold is going to look horrendous.

Rather than being an aspirational statement, I’d prefer this colour and the “Marinos Gold” catch-phrase was used in a celebratory manner. If you’re going to be “bling”, you’ve got to be able to back it up on something. A team like Gamba, having own three trophies last year are entitled to make a brash statement, not so much seventh place Marinos.

Over the past few days since their release, I’ve gradually become less enamoured with the home uniform. We’re still playing with two-tone light and dark blue theme. I’d prefer the dark blue was the predominant colour. Particularly for a team in a city that has another club that is identified by it’s light blue shirt. The shade of blue used in the 2012 home shirt is perfect for mine.

However, I think that this uniform will look much better in person, and “on person”, as it were. For the second year in a row, the goal keeper’s uniform is the classiest looking league uniform.”

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Welcome to 2015!

First of all we’d like to wish you all a very Happy (if slightly belated) New Year and welcome everyone back to Tricolore Pride for 2015.

Despite being highly anticipated, 2014 ended up being a fizzer of a season for us Marinos supporters. After a crushing last round of the 2013 season, spirits were lifted with the Emperor’s Cup win on the first day of the year and a return to the international stage beckoned with qualification to the Asian Champions League.

New Year’s Day, however, would be our high water mark as the stuttering performance in the loss to Sanfrecce in the Super Cup in February would set the frustrating tone for 2014. Instead of fiercely contesting five trophies, we failed to get out of second gear in all competitions, embarrassingly bundled out early in the Emperor’s Cup and barely managing to climb above mid-table mediocrity in the last few rounds of the year.

It wasn’t all misery though, the introduction of Rafinha in the second half of the season gave us some teeth up-front and sparked a revival of optimism in some quarters. In the midfield we finally got to see the best of Oguro Shohei as he put two or three injury-interrupted seasons behind him and tore into the opposition with some outstanding displays of aggressive (but fair) tackling and ball-winning. Their impact was short-lived, however with the Brazilian’s season all-but-ended in a horrid tackle by Frontale’s Jeci, whilst Ogura was awfully unlucky to strain his knee when his boot caught the ground in a challenge against Kofu at Mitsuzawa.

Whilst the signs were there that if we had a cutting edge in the front third that we weren’t too far off the pace *, the Marinos front office evidently felt that manager Higuchi Yasuhiro had taken the team as far as he could. It was announced three weeks prior to the end of the season that he was standing down. A loyal lot, there was an outpouring of sadness on social media from Marinos supporters saying that they had wanted to win a title with Higuchi. Banners at his last home game said “Let’s see Higuchi’s ‘gattsu pose’!”, referring to his fist-pump and victory celebration when we score a goal or win a match. In his last three games Higuchi nabbed two wins and drew with FC Tokyo on the final day of the season, bringing his final League record as manager to 45 wins, 31 draws and 26 losses, and at 1.62 points per game, only slightly behind Okada Takeshi’s 1.68.

Perhaps the on-field doldrums were reflected in the sporadic updates to the Tricolore Pride blog, hopefully we’ll bounce back with a bit more vigour this year. On the supporter front, the numbers in the stands dropped back to just below the 10-year average from last year’s all-time high, which is not difficult to understand given the circumstances surrounding the end to the 2013 season. However, we did get very good travelling numbers for Asian Champions League away games in Jeonju, Melbourne and Guangzhou.

On match day Tricolore Pride has experienced somewhat of a renaissance, in large part due to Stuart’s schmoozing, early morning lining-up and ticket-scalping endeavours (joking!). Seriously, though, Stuart has helped many, many supporters by purchasing tickets in advance for them or placing their names in the queues for matches. Also thanks to his efforts the group has  gained an increased following of locals, and we have had more people than ever who hail from from overseas drop by, be they travelling for ACL matches, general tourists or expats from other parts of Japan. Marinos supporters from such places as the US, Canada, Scotland, Germany, India, Italy, Holland, Tunisia, Australia and even Kawasaki made appearances last season.

On an extremely disappointing note, after a magnificent reaction by Marinos fans in general (and TP members in particular) to the Urawa “Japanese Only” incident, we were ashamed to have a Marinos supporter brandish a banana at Frontale’s Renato at Mitsuzawa in August. The J.League, club and other Marinos supporters stepped up quickly and denounced the act, with the club fined, and bans handed out to the perpetrator and his associates.

However, I’m personally not one who believes in collective punishment and in this case there was collateral damage as one well-known and well-respected member of the Marinos and wider Yokohama community who happened to be with that group on the day of the incident, was also banned. He struggled to clear his name and have his ban removed and only with help from contacts inside and outside the club was the situation finally resolved and he was able to rejoin us for the last few games of the season.

This year will bring many changes, hopefully for the good as we welcome Erick Mombaerts to Yokohama. Additionally, this year we will also be casting a watchful eye over the influence of City Football Group on the club’s activities. For now, we would like give a tip of the hat to those Manchester City fans who have reached out to us.

Whilst on that note, we would like to say a special thank you to all those Marinos Supporters and on many occasions opposition fans who made us welcome, especially those in far flung locations during our travels around the country (and overseas) last year.

So if you have plans to come to Japan in 2015 or are resident in Japan and have yet to get to the football, we recommend that you get to a J.League game as part of your experience. Make it a Yokohama F.Marinos match and be sure to look for our banner at the top of the steps in front of the east gate of Yokohama International Stadium, aka Nissan Stadium, and say hello!

Upcoming Important Dates:

1/18: Season Launch and Uniform Presentation, 4pm at Nissan Global Headquarters

Daisuke Oku Memorial Game – 2pm, featuring the following current & former Marinos players:

Enomoto Tetsuya, Iikura Hiroki, Shimokawa Kenichi (back-up GK 2001-6), Nakazawa Yuji, Kurihara Yuzo, Kawai Ryuji, Shimizu Norihisa, Shunsuke, Endo Akihiro, Kaneko Yuki (2000-4, now Junior Youth coach), Shiokawa Taketo (2005-7, recently manager at Tama University), Nakanishi Eisuke (2004-6), Sakata Daisuke, Yasunaga Sotaro (1995-98, 2001-4), Ihara Masami (playing for Jubilo OB’s!).

Also playing will be usual charity match attendees Nakata Hidetoshi and Kazu, joined by fellow Golden Generation-er, Ono Shinji.

1/19: First official team training for 2015

1/25 – 1/30: Pre-season camp 1 – Okinawa

1/31: Tricolore Festa – Fan’s Day

2/12 – 2/14: Pre-season Camp 2 – Miyazaki

3/7: Round 1 – vs Kawasaki Frontale, at home (Nissan Stadium)

3/14: Round 2 – vs FC Tokyo, Away.

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On Recent Events…

Despite a return to form on the pitch in recent weeks, it’s off the field issues that have earned the headlines for our beloved club in recent weeks. Of course, as a football fan it’s never nice to see your club on the front pages rather than the back pages, but as a foreign supporters group the challenges we have faced in recent weeks have been particularly concerning. As such, we feel it is appropriate to both inform our readers and offer an opinion on recent events. This post will be separated into two parts. In part 1, for those who have not yet learned of the incident in question, we will explain exactly what has happened and the circumstances around it. In part 2 we will offer our opinion on events.

Part 1

Firstly, we would like to note that the club or the fans of our regional rivals Kawasaki Frontale were in no way to blame for recent events, but we do feel it’s appropriate to put into context the rivalry between our clubs.

In recent years, ties against Frontale have become increasingly heated. In December of last year, Kawasaki defeated us on the final day of the season to deny us our first league championship in a decade. In May, we returned to Todoroki, the home of Frontale to face them in the final J-League fixture before the league took a two month break for the World Cup. At this game, a Frontale fan laid a scarf over a banner of club legend Naoki Matsuda, which had been positioned in front of the home fans due to a large traveling support. This act prompted a furious response from our fans, who moved towards the home fans and demanded the scarf be removed immediately.

In most other leagues, such actions in a local rivalry would be standard fare. As I write this article from Glasgow, Scotland, such an incident at a local derby wouldn’t gather a single line in a newspaper, with players, fans, managers and even politicians wading into the inevitable controversy that surrounds each Celtic and Rangers game that takes place. However, context is important here, and the J-League is not a league that has suffered from hooliganism or misbehaviour from fans in its 20 year history. The match day experience of fans in Japan is second to none. Stadiums are family-friendly, alcohol is readily available at reasonable cost inside the stadium, and there is little restriction on what fans can bring into the stadium overall. This tremendous match day experience comes at a cost; with the league and clubs’ sensitivity to public relations serving to sanitise the experience of fans who want to participate in ‘banter’ or to poke fun at their rivals. Acts seen as stoking rivalry are frowned upon and deemed ‘provocation’. For example, after Shimizu S-Pulse fans teased their relegation-doomed local rivals Jubilo Iwata in the Shizuoka Derby last year, the club reacted by banning songs and banners whilst the players were not on the pitch, as well as prohibiting them from ‘over-celebrating’ victories.

In March of this year, Urawa Reds, one of the most popular clubs in Japan, were forced to play a home game behind closed doors after fans displayed a banner reading ‘Japanese Only’ at the entrance to the section behind the goal. The Saitama stadium was closed for their home game against S-Pulse, and J-League president Mitsuru Mirai accused the club of “damaging the brand of not just the J-League, but of the entire Japanese football community.” Whilst instances of racism have occurred sporadically in the league in the past, this incident almost went viral. Images of the banner appeared on Twitter, international news outlets such as the BBC and Eurosport covered the story and the response of fans in the league was almost unanimous: racism would not be tolerated in the J-League. The supporters group responsible for the banner was disbanded, and the president of the club apologised for the incident and the slow response of club officials who had bizarrely waited to seek permission from the owner of the banner before removing it from the stadium. Yokohama F.Marinos fans, for their part, spoke out against racism at their next match. Fans Tweeted us pictures of banners they had created and put them out for display at the next available opportunity.

Screenshot 2014-09-03 09.41.24

(Photo via @jrwestw1)

Six months on from these events, and Kawasaki Frontale were back in town. Due to Nissan stadium playing host to a national school sports event, the tie was to be held at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa, our second stadium with an attendance of around 16000. If recent ties held at the larger Nissan stadium are anything to go by, this game could have sold-out twice over. Fans packed in to the venue and a full-stadium ‘tifo’ display reading ‘YOKOHAMA’ was displayed prior to kick-off. The match was a heated affair, with Kawasaki having a man sent off in the first half. Throughout the match tensions ran high and the Kawasaki players were relentlessly booed when they took possession and as they approached the corners. Our new boy Rafinha was lucky to stay on the field after apparently shoving the referee out of the way in an attempt to get to Frontale defender Jeci after a poor tackle from the Brazilian. The game finished with a 2-0 victory, our second win over our rivals this year and one of our best performances so far this season. As the dust settled, however, our performance on the field would be overshadowed by the actions of a fan in the stands.

Similarly to the Urawa incident in February, videos and images began to circulate on Twitter shortly after the match showing a Yokohama F.Marinos supporter waving a banana at Frontale’s Brazilian attacker Renato.

With club officials viewing the incident, swift action was taken. The perpetrator was taken aside after the game and asked to explain himself. Whilst he denied his actions were racist, the club took the decision to ban him indefinitely. President Kaetsu described the incident as “Unforgivable”, and even took the step of apologising profusely for the incident.

After several days deliberating, the J-League handed down a punishment to the club, a fine of 5 million yen. League President Mitsui Murai declared that “The club dealt with the case appropriately but we did not feel they were doing enough to raise awareness, as is their responsibility.” As such, at the weekend following the incident when we faced Vegalta Sendai, there were no drums, no ultras and no banners. Fans will participate in anti-racism educational events before taking their place behind the goal once more. The particular supporters group that the perpetrator was a member of (easily identified by their distinctive black shirts) have been disbanded and will not be welcome at any of the remaining matches this season. The club has also asked for a general toning down of the booing during player announcements of visiting clubs, and in particular a cooling down of provocative acts towards Kawasaki Frontale on social media.

Part 2

We at Tricolore Pride are deeply disappointed with the racist incident that took place at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa recently. We fully accept the decision of the J-League to punish the club in this instance, however we feel we are in as good a position as anyone to offer an insight in to the Yokohama F.Marinos support on this particular issue.

Whilst there were Tricolore Pride members attending the game on that particular evening, none of us were in the vicinity of the incident that took place. Aside from the racist actions of the individual himself, those sitting in the immediate area surrounding him must also accept some responsibility. Self-policing is an important part of any event in which large groups amass. The failure of those around the perpetrator to intervene is of great disappointment.

Only the perpetrator himself truly knows his opinion on racism, however it is obvious that he did not have the sense to know that such a provocative act was not a legitimate way to act at a football match. Education is the key in eradicating racism from both football and society as a whole. It is easy to simply throw a fine at a club and move on, but we commend the J-League for recognising this is not a long-term solution and for indicating a desire to see anti-racism training carried out by fans. We would hope that the fan in question grows to learn from his mistakes and will eventually see the error of his ways.

In the past year alone, we have hosted guests from the following nations at home games: India, the Netherlands, Zambia, Australia, Canada, Scotland, Tunisia, the Philippines, Italy and England. In that time, we have never received anything other than a warm welcome from, what we believe, are the best fans in the country. Fan group leaders have reached out to us, we have been given gifts, shared beers with and chanted alongside many fans. In our experience, race is inconsequential; when you don your jersey, you’re a Yokohama F.Marinos fan and nothing else.

On September 13th, we will face Nagoya Grampus at the Nissan Stadium. On that day, most of the Tricolore Pride blog members will be in the stadium, with Tony and Jamie flying in from Australia and Scotland respectively to see the team play. Yokohama F.Marinos truly are an international club, and, as our success on the field and popularity increases, our fan base is becoming increasingly international in turn. We will continue to encourage friends & guests from all over the world to attend home matches with us, without fear of racism or discrimination in any form.
Please join us in supporting the team to another victory against Nagoya Grampus.

We are Marinos.

Tricolore Pride.

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A Mid-Season Review…

Oh Spring. Are you really that necessary? Why do the seasons even change? Take me back to those halcyon days of winter when we swept aside the league champions to win the Emperor’s cup and kicked off the new league campaign with 3 consecutive victories. We were in full-bloom and looked strong, like we could really have a go at the league again this year, like we were back to our dynamic, counter-attacking best…

Alas, it doesn’t look like this’ll be our year. At all. After inspiring all that hope by winning our opening 3 fixtures without conceding a goal… we capitulated, falling to the bottom of the table. The next 7 games would see us score just 1 goal and pick up a measly 2 points from the 21 available. By comparison, season 2012 saw us pick up 11 points between rounds 4 and 10, scoring 11 goals in the the process.

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So what’s changed? Quite a lot actually. The biggest issue we have is, unsurprisingly, a lack of goals. Sure, we’ve managed to keep 7 clean sheets from our first 13 games, but with strikers Ito Sho, Fujita, Hanato and Yajima failing to score frequently in those matches, we’ve hit the net just 13 times, and drawn a blank in 6 games. Had we lost to Frontale in our final match before the mid-summer break, we’d currently find ourselves sitting in the relegation zone, a shocking state of affairs for a side that finished season 2013 in 2nd place.

Despite such a poor season so far, It’s not all doom and gloom in the ‘Hama, as in the mid-season break the club announced the signing of Brazilian striker Rafinha from Ulsan Hyundai in the K-League. Rafinha has experience of the league, having played with Gamba Osaka back in 2011 & 2012, departing for Korea before they were relegated from J1. The move proved a successful one as he would go on to lift the 2012 ACL title, scoring in the final against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.

Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what to expect of Rafinha, as I haven’t seen much of him, but I believe I do know what is required to make this F.Marinos side a successful one again. Watching the side has been frustrating at times this season. Our full-backs are decent enough players at this level, and our central defenders are still very capable despite advancing age. We are strongest in midfield, and even have some options out with Saito and Shunsuke this year, unlike last season. Our style of play is, unashamedly, defensive. We defend in numbers and look to hit back on the counter. At our best, the guile and precision of Shunsuke balances well with the directness of Manabu to create a dangerous counterattacking threat. Except, that hasn’t been the case this season so far. We’ve looked slow going forward, like we’ve lost a yard of pace. Our full-backs seem less inclined to bomb on, and the link up play has been disjointed and, at times, even clumsy. This side is crying out for a mobile striker who is willing to work the channels and create space for our 3 attacking midfielders. Rafinha has license to be ‘greedy’, even, and set an example for a shot-shy midfield who have often overplayed the ball this season. If he can carry out these duties, not only will he be successful in Yokohama, but so will his team mates.

The club also announced the departure of left-back Dutra, who will retire from football at the end of this month. Approaching his 41st birthday, Dutra has displayed a remarkable work ethic over the past 2 and a half seasons with the club and has certainly set an example to some of the younger players.

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 Photo: Yokohama F.Marinos

August of 2013 saw fans memorably turn up for the game against Sagan Tosu wearing headbands with large cut-outs of his face to celebrate his 40th birthday. His performances in his second spell with the club were, undoubtedly, a mixed bag. His effort and commitment are unquestionable, however, and his combined 9 years of service at the club will be remembered fondly. Obrigado, Ossan!

News out of Marinos Town today that volante Seitaro Tomisawa will be out for up to 4 weeks with a hamstring injury is a blow with the Sanfrecce away game just around the corner. Kanpei scored a fantastic driving effort and put in a man-of-the-match performance in the same tie last season. He’ll be replaced by one of Ogura or Mikado, who had deputised in midfield prior to the mid-season break. 

In other injury news, Shunsuke took advantage of the 2 month gap between fixtures to have surgery on a lingering gallbladder issue that has been affecting him since November 2013. Sadly, Shunsuke was also involved in a training ground accident at that camp in Niigata and had a gash in his head stapled. Fortunately, the knock shouldn’t stop him from returning to league duty on July 15th, and will hopefully mark the end of his misfortune…

Finally, April of 2014 saw the introduction of the Tricolore Pride banner at F.Marinos matches, and a big meet-up for a few games. Brendan, Dan, Stuart and I all attended the home match against Vegalta Sendai and were joined by a few friends under our banner. The meet was detailed by Dan in the most recent edition of the fantastic JSoccer Magazine, and we definitely recommend you pick yourself up a copy.

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Vamos F.Marinos!

 

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Yuji Nakazawa on ‘Japanese Football’

On the Japanese sports site Sponichi Annex, Yuji Nakazawa recently commented on the need for continuity in Japan’s national team’s style of football:

In response to the Japan being eliminated in the group stage of the 2014 Brazil World cup former Japanese national player, Yokohama F. Marinos defender Nakazawa Yuji said,

“I have recommended the establishment of  ‘Japanese Football’”

Based on his experience of participating in two consecutive tournaments in Germany in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010 he feared that there is no continuity in Japanese football,

“In 99 Japan’s style was modelled around the French who won in the previous year. After that, we played ball-moving and people-moving football. From around 2010, we played Spanish ‘pass football’. With every World Cup when a 4 year cycle is ended, so, the ‘Japanese style’ constantly changes”

To establish a style, consistent leadership is essential from junior training age so he has suggested to the JFA that, “it would better if they managed this and this won’t happen unless the Association appoints a leader who is able to organise this in all age groups.”

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A warm welcome to Rafinha!

It was nice surprise to hear that Rafinha has signed for us. JSoccer magazine quickly posted up a video of Rafinha’s previous performances.

A short message from him was posted on the club home page the following day:

I am very glad to be able to come to a big club. I’ll do my best to demonstrate my full power in order to fufill the team goal of winning the league championship. Thank you for your support.

We all wish him the best of luck and hope to see some fine goals from him, like this one, in the near future!

Vital Statistics:

Full name: Rafael dos Santos de Oliveira
Date of birth: 30 June 1987 (age 27)
Place of birth: Osasco, Brazil
Height: 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Position: Striker

Previous Clubs
2004 – Nacional-SP
2007 → Avispa Fukuoka (loan)
2008 → Paulista (loan)
2008 → Atlético Juventus (loan)
2009 → Votoraty (loan)
2010–2011 → Thespa Kusatsu (loan)
2011–2012 → Gamba Osaka (loan)
2012– 2014→ Ulsan Hyundai (loan)

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All the way from down under to cheer our boys on!

This past week has been a mixed bag of results with even more erratic weather to boot but an undeniable highlight of the week for us was having the honor of meeting up with longtime Tricolore Pride reader, Brett, and his family from Melbourne! Not only did he and his family travel all the way here to cheer on their beloved Melbourne Victory, they even came along to the Kashima game to show their support!

Brett was also kind enough to write us an account of his stay in Yokohama complete with some awesome photos to share too! Thanks Brett!!

This is in two parts. Why you say?
Well at home in Melbourne, Australia our home team is Melbourne Victory. But from previous visits to Japan, Yokohama F. Marinos are our J-League team we follow. This for the most part has meant we have had to follow the Marinos from afar by watching occasional feeds and (you guessed it) by checking out the Tricolore Pride website, among other web sources.
By the quirk of Melb. Victory qualifying for the Group Stages of the the 2014 ACL, and the Yokohama F. Marinos winning the Emperor’s Cup, It turns out that the two teams I follow actually compete against each other (for the first time) in the Group stages of the Asian Champions League. This opportunity was too good to miss, hence the whole family made the journey from Australia to Japan to see these teams play at the Nissan.
However, as fans of the F. Marinos, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to travel earlier to see the F. Marinos play Kashima Antlers, the weekend before the Melb. Victory fixture.
Hence, Part One should be taken as from the Marinos fan point of view (just to clear up any suggestions of Bi-Polar)
Part One:
By now, anyone reading this post will have known the result for a while now. Up 1-nil at Half Time, it was looking good for the Marinos. Then the Second Half. Quite simply, loose defending cost the F. Marinos 3 goals and at the final whistle, Yokohama F. Marinos 1 – 3 Kashima Antlers. Less said about this result the better in my opinion.
Not because I can’t handle losing (well that’s not completely true, but that can be said about any football supporter), but because while disappointing, the result was not the sole reason we (my family) travelled to see Yokohama that day.
You see, for the players and all staff associated with (any) club, their success and failure is purely based on the cold results after 90 plus minutes; and the tabled results as the season/competition progresses.
If we as fans were to adopt this, we would never invest the money, time, or (most importantly) the passion to follow a club. While we all suffer bad results, the passion to follow a team can never be measured against. Which is why, even after a loss like that suffered by Yokohama F. Marinos last weekend, fans will show up again at the next game to go through 90 minutes of tension and hope again. And again after that. And so on…
It was this passion to see our adopted team play that brought us to Japan in the first place. So my family and I quickly looked past last Saturday’s Kashima result, and instead left the Nissan proud of having been able to participate in cheering on the boys, meeting new people, sharing the shifting emotions as the game progressed, and catching up with Brendan and Daniel from Tricolour Pride.
Below are some images that try to capture some of the colour and atmosphere we experienced that sunny Saturday afternoon in late March.
So to all the F. Marinos fans we met that day, though we spend most of our time a hemisphere away, we thank-you so much for welcoming us.
Part two:
And now comes the reason why we travelled. A brief recap or ‘previously on Tricolore Pride’…
Live in Melbourne Australia, follow Melbourne Victory (the ‘One Team in Melbourne’), also follow from afar Yokohama F. Marinos, both teams are playing each other in the group stages of the 2014 ACL, hence family on plane to Japan to see Victory play Yokohama at the Nissan. Right, up to speed?
With Saturday’s F. Marinos songs still ringing in our ears, come Wednesday afternoon we had to turn our attention to supporting our Melbourne team, who  themselves (like Yokohama currently) are juggling playing regular season matches and mid week ACL matches.
While Victory claimed the 3 points in Melbourne just a couple of weeks earlier (see previous pictures and story in this blog), it was against a Yokohama side minus a few of the big guns – Shunsuke Nakamura, Yuji Nakazawa, to name a couple of some of the usual starting XI that missed the trip to Melbourne.
While Coach Higuchi could be questioned for underestimating his opponents in that match, in an ironic copy of Higuchi a couple of weeks earlier, it was Victory’s coach Kevin Muscat who went into the return Yokohama away leg with a few of Victory’s starting XI missing from the line up. It appears squad rotation to compete (or juggle) in both domestic and confederation competitions was high in the minds of both Higuchi and Muscat. While this would normally be cause for concern, as a Victory supporter, time and again over the past couple of years we have seen our younger players step up to take on these challenges and generally perform quite well.
Hence when a couple of Victory supporters got together pre-match for drinks, there was a quite confidence the boys would do us proud.
After the short walk to the Nissan, we were directed around to the visiting supporters end, to find several expats and others there to join us support the Victory. In all about 30 people were in the away supporters area, doing our bit to support the Victory boys.
Now while hearing about away supporters in a Yokohama F. Marinos blog is not what most readers want to hear, but the away end does give you a great view of the Yokohama supporters end. They easily out sung us for volume but their co-ordinated displays were a sight to behold. We dealt with the lack of volume down our end by occasional changing the Tricolore lyrics in their songs to our Victory lyrics we usually sing. We found out later some of the visiting Western Sydney Wanderers fans (who played Kawasaki Frontale the evening before in their Group H ACL match) were there with the Tricolore fans, to sing against us as well. At least they were learning from the best, and according to their social media reports, loved the experience like we did the previous weekend.
But to the game itself, and an early penalty awarded to the Victory saw us go 1-0 up earlier in the first half, but once composed, the Marinos pair of Ito Sho and Nakamachi Kosuke slotted 2 in the back of the onion bag, too have Victory trailing 2-1 at half time. Late in the second half a goal by Hyodo Shingo looked to seal the result for Yokohama, but an extra time goal by Victory’s James Jeggo brought the scoreline back to 3-2.
Unfortunately for the Victory that was all that could be done, as the scoreline finished with Yokohama claiming the win with a 3-2 scoreline. But unfortunately for the F. Marinos, that late goal by Jeggo enabled Victory to keep the better goal difference and hence the 3rd position on the Group G table, with Marinos anchoring the table, but on equal points.
While it is still possible for either of Yokohama or Melbourne to still get a top 2 spot to progress to the knockout round of the ACL, with two rounds left, this is becoming a bigger ask for both our teams.
After the match we slowly made our way around the stadium, catching up with happy (well happier now, than they were on the previous Saturday) F. Marinos fans. We had some Victory stickers to give to some of the kids, my wife was swapping scarfs with some Tricolore girls, and finally we caught up with Brendan, Stuart, Chris, and Han for a few laughs, stories, and eventually a few ales in a restaurant resembling Bruce Wayne’s Bat-Cave.
Unfortunately, being mid week, the following day’s work commitments meant the need to catch the last trains for the night. This is when we had to say our last goodbyes, and express our appreciation for catching up with Brendan, Stuart, Chris, Han, and Daniel. Thanks for all the work that goes into Tricolore Pride, and we hope to return to the Nissan soon to lend our voices to Yokohama F. Marinos, once more.
That was our Yokohama F. Marinos experience – we have seen them 3 times in the last 3 weeks. That’s so cool.

Cheers to all, and best of luck for the rest of the season.

 Brett and family.
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An ACL Defeat, Fan Photos and Musings on Marquinhos…

Melbourne Victory 1 – 0 Yokohama F-Marinos

That was a hard one to take. Despite dominating possession for the entire second half, missing several gilt-edged chances and even rattling the crossbar from a Jungo free-kick, the ball just wouldn’t go in to the net. After the match I had two main considerations; firstly, how are we going to compete in the J-League this season if we struggle for goals like this without Shun and Sho? Secondly, is our ACL campaign dead in the water before it ever really started? 

 

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Amidst all the talk of a lack of goals, I was amused to see Brazilian striker Marquinhos get on the scoresheet for Vissel Kobe at the weekend in their 1-1 draw against FC Tokyo. To say that Marquinhos left F-Marinos last season on bad terms wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, but one certainly could argue that the circumstances surrounding his departure were somewhat bizarre. For a player reported to be earning the highest salary of any player in our squad, his decision to depart after our failure to secure the league title, and some weeks before the seasons officially ended, was a strange one. Rather than compete in the Emperor’s cup in the hope of salvaging something from the season, Marqui left the club (and fans!) and took a trip back home to Brazil for Christmas before returning to Kobe in the close season.

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I’m sure he had his reasons. Some say that the emotion of losing the title was too much for him so he felt it better to move on, but for me, Marquinhos owed it to the fans to stay where he was and finish his contract at the very least. His form in-front of goal had been non-existent since August and, despite scoring 16 league goals in the first half of the season, he failed to score a single goal in the final 10 matches of the season.  That he scored his first goal since joining Kobe last weekend (and his first goal since August last year!) is of no surprise, and I have no doubts he’ll get another this weekend… just to rub it in! 

 

As for the ACL, the decision to leave Shun, Bomber and other starting XI members in Yokohama as the others made the trip to Melbourne was either an error of judgement on the part of Coach Higuchi (in underestimating our opponents), or an indication that he no longer feels the ACL is a competition worth putting it ‘all’ in to. There’s evidence to support the latter, as last season saw Sanfrecce Hiroshima essentially give up on the tournament, playing a second string throughout most group matches and finishing bottom of their group. Personally I’d like to see the side do well in the ACL, but I do recognise the lack of real depth in our squad means we need to be sensible in choosing who plays where and when. Sparing Shunsuke and a few others a 20 hour round trip in between two league games was probably the right thing to do, but I feel for the fans who made the huge journey to Melbourne for the game. The support received great praise from the locals (who know a thing or two themselves about supporting their club) and a TricolorePride reader named Brett, who’ll be making his own debut at the Nissan in the next few weeks, sent us these photos to share with fans of the club. Thanks Brett!

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