Category: Strine Sports

AFL – Modern Australia’s Religion and Failed Proselytizing in Japan

If post-European colonization Australian has any sort of religion, there’s a good argument to be made that it could be the indigenous code of football, known as Australian Rules.

171_001For most Australians in the southern part of the country, footy provides them with the closest opportunity they will have to a tribal allegiance and generally loyalties toward their team are fervent and frequently location based even now (and almost exclusively the further you go back into the past).
The Australian Football League (AFL), administer of the sport, to this day tries to spread the Aussie footy message overseas, but the reality is that the game remains local.

Scenes from Aussie Bowl '86

Scenes from Aussie Bowl ’86

Nonetheless, its impact on Australians is undeniable, with millions viewing games every week, either at stadiums or on television, and its influence on society is pervasive, even in the northern states of New South Wales and Queensland, where forms of rugby have traditionally been the favorite football codes.
It was part of the effort to spread the charm of Australian football overseas that Japan became involved. Australian football garnered a modicum of appeal in the United States through screenings on the ESPN sports cable channel.
From there interest arose from Japan’s Fuji TV, then flush with funds from the country’s bubbling economy and its series of phenomenally successful “trendy drama” shows with sky-high ratings bringing in almost boundless advertising revenue.
Ironically, on May 20, 1986, just as the Victorian Football League (the AFL’s predecessor) was poised to announce that its Melbourne-based game was to expand to encompass teams from Western Australia and Queensland, there also came the announcement of the “Aussie Bowl,” an Australian Rules game to be played at Yokohama Stadium by that year’s grand finalists.
Fuji TV had proposed the game and would bankroll it, providing the winning team with $20,000 and the best player with a new car. Total costs estimated at AUD$2 million would be borne by Fuji in exchange for global broadcast rights.
The game would be played as 15-a-side, three players fewer than normal due to the diamond-shape stadium instead of the oval ground the game is usually played on.
Fuji promoted the game heavily, running special features in magazines and manga associated with its media network and tickets sold like “tempura hot cakes,” according to one Australian commentator at the time. J-Walk, then an up-and-coming band, released the single Hono no Senshi (炎の戦士) to promote the game and it became a minor hit.
Aussie Rules was on the verge of becoming Japan’s flavor of the month just as the country’s newlyweds were also starting to fall in love with Down Under.
19860520 Aussie Bowl 86
Nov. 3, 1986, duly rolled around.
Culture Day in Japan, a national holiday, and good enough for a crowd of about 25,000 to roll up and watch the VFL Premiers Hawthorn Hawks continue their Grand Final dominance over the Carlton Blues, winning 22.17 (149) to 13.18 (96).
The ground announcer was Ichiro Furutachi.
A scene from Aussie Bowl '86

A scene from Aussie Bowl ’86

By all accounts, the game was a success. Robert Dipierdomenico would be voted player of the match and Aussie Rules was helping Australia gain a foothold in the affections of ordinary Japanese, joining koalas and frill-necked lizards as a symbol of the land Down Under.
Plans for Aussie Bowl ‘87 started immediately.
The pattern was similar: that year’s Grand Finalists would meet later in Yokohama, a huge crowd would attend and Fuji and the VFL/AFL would make a killing.
That was the plan, but things didn’t quite work out that way.
Many players from Carlton had apparently been reluctant participants in the 1986 game, which came some six weeks after they had been defeated in the Grand Final and had hoped to be on holiday. There had, as hinted at in a much-later column from then Carlton star and future Victorian State Government Cabinet Minister Justin Madden, been some minor cultural clashes between the “easygoing” Aussies and “time obsessed” Japanese.
Even though the Japan match was moved back a week to accommodate the players’ post-season vacation plans and then Carlton President John Elliott made threats against reluctant participants, the Blues qualified by making the 1987 Grand Final (again against Hawthorn) but by then had already pulled out and been replaced by the Essendon Bombers, the Hawks’ other great rivals of the 1980s.
19861106 Aussie Bowl 86
More troubles followed.
A typhoon swept over the Kanto Region in the days leading up to the Oct. 25 match.
In the two days before the game, Yokohama had been pounded by torrential rain. Prices for the match were also steep, more than double the cost of a Grand Final ticket and about four times what it would normally cost to watch a game of baseball at the same stadium.
Regardless of Japan being awash with cash, the previous year’s novelty appeal had not been maintained despite the game being plugged by Romancing Yard, a theme song by Chage & ASKA, at the time one of Japan’s biggest acts.
Only about 13,000 turned up to watch, many of whom were left wondering whether Essendon had turned up to play as the Hawks flogged the Bombers by about 10 goals (nobody is quite sure what the actual final score was).
It seemed Aussie Rules would continue to try and cultivate the Japanese market, which then appeared poised to become the world’s largest.
Suntory Ltd., one of Japan’s largest brewers, would use Aussie Rules and Mark “Jacko” Jackson to promote its beers.

But, around about that time, the bean counters stepped in. Fuji found financing Aussie Rules to be unsustainable, even in an age when it was the norm to throw money around on losing causes. The VFL wouldn’t or couldn’t continue to pay the cost of promoting the Australian game in Japan. And that was just about that.
19871026 Aussie Bowl 87
That’s not to say there wasn’t a legacy. For Aussie Bowl ’87, two university teams formed to play a curtain raiser to the main clash. From that, a Japanese Aussie Rules league formed, centered on university students. The league, the Australian Football League Japan, remains to this day.
Aussie Bowl 86 TuckieIt also forms the basis for the Japan Samurais, the team that competes in the International Cup.
The league grows yearly on a tiny base, but it looks great! It has even contributed a player who vied for selection in high-ranked Australian football leagues beneath the national league almost a decade ago.
Ichiro Furudate, the ground announcer for Aussie Bowl ’86, remains a nightly presence on Japanese TV as the anchor for TV Asahi’s News Station.
Others weren’t so lucky.
Koichi Nakamura, lead vocalist and the face of J-Walk, which had done the theme for Aussie Bowl ’86 would see his career in tatters following multiple convictions for drug possession and a term behind bars.
Aussie Bowl 86 Theme SongMirroring that was a drug conviction for Aska from the Aussie Bowl ’87 theme song performers, Chage and Aska.
Roles the performers had played in proselytizing Aussie Rules were long forgotten.
Perhaps the closest Japan has come to having a role to play in contemporary Aussie Rules was Essendon visiting for a Buddhism-inspired pre-season trip in 2006.
Or, perhaps even more recently, there was former bad boy Brendon Fevola tattooing his wife’s name on his arm in katakana script.
But even Fevola has been off the AFL scene for a five years now.
But the halcyon days of Aussie Rules given prime-time airtime in Japan are now decades in the past and unlikely to ever arise again.
1986 Record Promotion
1987 Record Promotion

Australian Football’s Tokyo Area ‘Samurai’ Off to the World Cup



Australia rarely makes the news in Japan, so it’s interesting to see it on the front page of the Asahi newspaper June 4 evening edition.
The story is about Japan’s Aussie Rules team, the Samurais, who’ll be battling it out in the International Cup starting from June 8.
Japan has a really small, but thriving, Australian Rules competition, with two leagues (including several all-Japanese teams), the Eastern League, centering on Tokyo and surrounding areas, and the Western League, comprising Osaka and Nagoya.

Here’s an excerpt from the Asahi report:

サッカー・ワールドカップ(W杯)大会が迫るなか、「世界で最も激しい」というフットボールの世界大会も8月に開かれる。それってラグビー? いえいえ、オーストラリアンフットボール。豪州では国技と言われる大人気のプロスポーツだ。5大会連続で出場する日本代表も、追い込みに入っている。

A translation: Just as the soccer World Cup is about to hit us, another football world championship — this one promising to be the world’s toughest — is going to start in August. What’s it for? Rugby? Nope. Aussie Rules. It’s the national sport in Australia and a professional sport. Japan’s national team has taken part in the past five International Cups and it’s about to take part in the next one.

All Japan Samurais
AFL Japan
Japan Samurais Members

「国家を静止するレース」:競馬のための祝日

Fiorente wins the 2013 Melbourne Cup

Fiorente wins the 2013 Melbourne Cup

Fiorente wins the 2013 Melbourne Cup[/caption] 
先日、日本が「文化の日」があり、祝日となったが、今日(5日)は、オーストラリアが祝日だ。ある意味同じような文化の日を祝っていると言えるかもしれないが、オーストラリアの場合、その「文化」が競馬だ!
 世界中にG1レースが大体100件ある中半分以上日本で開催され、間違いなく日本が競馬大国となっている。しかし、日本でも競馬のために祝日がない。
 だが、オーストラリアでは11月第一火曜日は「メルボルン・カップ・デー」とし、開催地フレミントン競馬場があるメルボルン市内が休日となっている。他州など、仕事があってもレースが開始する午後2時40分からの数分間ほぼ全国の人々が競馬を見て大盛り上がり。よっぽどのことじゃない限り、同レースを見て、職場などで掛け合う習慣があり、全国のほぼ全員の注目を浴びる。あまりにも影響が大きくメルボルン・カップは「国家を静止するレース」と呼ばれている。
 日本がメルボルン・カップと面白い歴史がある。初めて参戦したのは2005年だった。アイ・ポッパーが12着で終わった。しかし、翌年、3200メートル日本馬デルタ・ブルースとポップ・ロックが圧倒的に強く1・2着で争い、デルタ・ブルースが見事に優勝した。
 しかし、その直後、オーストラリアで「馬インフルエンザ」が発生し、日本馬のせいとされ入国制限が一層厳しくなった。以降、2010年のトウカイ・トリック以外、日本馬がレースしていない。

追伸:2013年メルボルン・カップが5日午後行ない、初女性調教師としてゲイ・ウォーターハウス氏のフィオレンテ(Fiorente)が優勝した!
Fiorente hands Waterhouse historic Melbourne Cup triumph

いよいよ日豪対決!Bragging Rights at Stake as Samurai Blue Tackle Socceroos in World Cup Qualifier

OzvsJPFierce but friendly rivals Japan and Australia meet in an Asian Football Confederation Round Four World Cup qualifying match at Saitama Stadium 2002 near Tokyo on June 4.
アジアサッカー連盟(AFC)ライバル国日本とオーストラリアがサッカー2014年ワールドカップ最終予選を今夜、6月4日、埼玉スタジアム2002で行なう。
Japan, currently top of Group B, need only to take a point from this match to qualify for Brazil 2014.
現在Bグループ首位である日本代表が引き分けでも来年ブラジルで行なうワールドカップ出場が決定となる。
Australia, in third place a point behind Jordan but with a game in hand, will be looking to take home at least one point, but will have its hands full against a team that has realistic hopes of reaching the latter rounds in South America next year.
一方、2位ヨルダンの1点差でありながら試合数が一つ少ないオーストラリア代表は、恐らく引き分けを狙うが日本代表に対してなかなか強さを見せることができないだろう。
Also at stake in this match will be bragging rights between two of the AFC’s powerhouse teams, which have met 20 times overall, for seven wins apiece and six draws. Since Australia’s entry into the AFC in 2007, the record remains deadlocked with two wins each with two draws in the six times they’ve clashed.
今回の試合も両国間の歴代勝敗率に影響与える。全体的に20試合7勝7敗6引き分けとなっている。オーストラリアがAFCに加盟した2007年以降でも2勝2敗2引き分けと極めて引き離せない両代表だ。

Japan will go into the match a firm favorite with Saitama, Asia’s largest exclusively football stadium, packed to the rafters with Japan’s most fervent supporters, the finals place at stake, more recent hit-outs — albeit with uninspiring results including a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria last weekend and a shock defeat to Jordan — the heat working against the Southern Hemisphere Socceroos and top quality talent including Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Atsuto Uchida.
しかし、今回の試合は、日本が圧倒的に有利視されている。W杯出場、熱狂的なファンで満員アジア最大サッカースタジアム、結果はともかくプレイしていない相手に対して試合を行っていることだけでも、そして本田圭佑、内田篤人や香川真司など有力選手が多いことなど、勝利すべきだ。
Australia has enormous talent, too, but it looks overstretched with veteran 30-somethings Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill and Josh Kennedy among those who took on Japan in the legendary 2006 World Cup Germany match at Kaiserslauten, where the Socceroos came from 1-0 down at the 84th minute to win 3-1. Great then, but now an athlete’s lifetime of seven years ago, reflecting a lack of fresh talent injection into the Australian line-up.
一方、サッカールーズも多彩な選手も多いにも関わらず大が付くぐらいのベテランも多い。ルーカス・ニール、ティム・ケーヒルやジョッシュ・ケネディーなどがいずれも素晴らしい選手だけど、日本で馴染みであるのが三人ともあの2006年ワールドカップでプレイしたことからだ。その日豪試合では、日本が後半39分まで1-0でリードしたがいきなり逆転されて3-1と負けた。オーストラリアにとってその結果が最高だったが、もう早選手寿命に等しい7年前のことだ。

Match Information

Japan versus Australia
Saitama Stadium 2002
Kick-off 7:30 p.m. JST (8:30 p.m. AEST)

日本代表 Japan Samurai Blue Official Website (Japan Football Association)

Australia Socceroos Official Website (Football Federation Australia)