[Review] 2015-2016 J.League Season: Week 1 and Week 2

The 2nd week of fixtures of the 2015-2016 J.League season have concluded.

At the moment, the Urawa Reds, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, and Sagan Tosu sit on top of the table with maximum points from their first two matches. On the bottom of the table are the Yokohama F Marinos (1 point), Kashima Antlers (0 points), and Montedio Yamagata (0 points).

Kashima Antlers:

Nothing much to say about the top 3 teams because I expect them to be contending for the title.  However, I believe the Kashima Antlers winless after their first two matches have sent a few waves throughout J.League followers.  Some analysts predicted that Kashima would be a title contender before the season started, which I something I would have assumed also, but Kashima saw defeat against the Shimizu S Pulse 1-3 and lost again this weekend against newly promoted J2 champions Shonan Bellmare 1-2.

I have always spoken highly of Kashima’s CM Gaku Shibasaki, and I still firmly believe that he will be a solid player for the Japanese national team. I have not seen any of Kashima’s matches this season yet because they have not been broadcasted on a channel I can see them on; thus, I cannot give a personal opinion of why they are still standing in the starting blocks.

Gamba Osaka:

Also concerning another title contender that is winless in their first 2 matchesーGamba Osaka. I saw Gamba’s first match against FC Tokyo, and they were lucky to score their first goal after a clear officiating mistake (more on this later).  Nonetheless, FC Tokyo showed their immaturity by appealing to the match official while the game was still going on.  Takashi Usami found Yasuhito Endo, who then sent in a perfect cross to Patric (no I did not misspell his name) who made no mistake with his chance.

Usami then won a PK, then did the ‘unthinkable’ by telling PK master Endo that he wanted to take the PK he earned.  Being a man of his word, Usami slotted his PK past the keeper; 2-0 to Gamba Osaka.

FC Tokyo looked to be done, but Yoshinori Muto put the team on his back and scored two goals.  His second goal an absolutely beautiful strike.

After their last match against Sagan Tosu, Gamba supporters then booed their team off of the pitch after the final whistle sounded.  To me, it’s good to see Japanese supporters giving their team an earful. Progress down in Osaka.

Officiating:

The J.League is infamous for it’s low quality of officiating.  I am not blaming the officials for their lack of understanding of the beautiful game or for making mistakes.  Humans are human; therefore, we make mistakes.  For many years, soccer had 3 officials (one center official and assistants on the lines) + a 4th official to signal substitutions and the amount of stoppage time.  Recently, goal line officials and goal line technology (only to determine whether the ball breaks the plain of the goal line) have been introduced.  I am in favor of having goal line officials and goal line technology.

Incident 1: Gamba Osaka vs. FC Tokyo

I previously mentioned the incident which occurred during the Gamba Osaka vs. FC Tokyo match.  Usami took a defender on running towards the FC Tokyo’s goal line in the penalty area, the ball clearly crossed the goal line; meaning, the ball would be turned over to FC Tokyo for a goal kick.  However, the assistant referee and center official were not in a position to see the ball cross the line, and this eventually led to Gamba scoring the first goal of the game.

Incident 2: Kawasaki Frontale vs. Vissel Kobe

Yu Kobayashi deftly hit a cheeky lifted cross past Kobe’s GK and Yoshito Okubo got his head on to the cross. Vissel Kobe DF Ryo Okui retreated back and cleared the ball off of the underside of the crossbar before the ball crossed the goal line.  The ball then slammed back to the ground, visibly not breaking the goal line; however, the official ruled that the ball had crossed the line and awarded Kawasaki with a goal.

It is a shame when officiating misjudgments are what decide a match.  As a player, I have experienced this countless times and also a few times when helping coach my alma mater for a short time.  Friends who are still very active in the soccer community back home tell me stories about how the non-decisions and bad decisions of match officials stood out more than the players on the pitch.

Soccer Culture:

Soccer is not only about the 11 players playing against another set of 11 players. Teams have managers, coaching staff, medical staff, front office staff, and not to mention THE FANS.  Match officials are just as important as the players on the pitch.  That is why I believe the level of soccer in a country will not go up unless all aspect of the game get better: officiating, fans, and the media.

As for officiating, I was once told by an official before match before the coin toss (because I was captain) that he’ll be “invisible” today. True to his word, he was.  He kept the match under control without imposing to the point where it would affect the players psychologically.

As for fans, live up the good times and give the team hell during the bad times. This will strengthen player motivation.

As for the media, they are paid to write controversial articles at times, but I am not against that. However, the media culture in Japan toward soccer is quite ridiculous.

Overall, Japanese soccer has grown a lot in the past 20 years, but is still not where it should be.

More posts to come soon!

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