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.