I acknowledged earlier that the current set up does not produce the greatest games. The final people want to see is Europe v South America. Now wasn’t this the previous competition. So here we have the team that finished 11th in the second half of the J League one match away from being named the best club side on the world.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has talked about moving the competition from December to June and increasing the number of teams to 32. Currently the teams from Europe and South America play two games, the renewed format could possibly mean three more games for them.
He has also hinted that domestic leagues should feature just 18 teams. That is all well and good for the teams that qualify for the FIFA tournament but the majority will lose income.
The fact that Kashima Antlers will earn US$4m for reaching the final is the holy grail clubs look for, and the reason it may happen .
I have no doubt the format will change, with FIFA looking to increase their income at the expense of national associations.
I met Ángel (pronounced Anhel) with a Spanish accent as I checked in my hotel in Tokyo. He said I could call him Angel, but I declined.
He was here to support America, but had to be back at work on Monday so couldn’t stay for the Final on Sunday. He had somewhat overdone the shopping and showed me his bags asking for advice on how to check it in. My best suggestion (for this time of year) was a Santa sack.
Anhel had decided he was going to visit Mount Fuji. I was interested, but confused as I knew he only had one day left. My idea of going to Mount Fuji is climbing the mountain and planting a flag.
He had found that he could get take a three hour trip by train and a bus and get to a spot where he could take a photo of the mountain. I mentioned that it had been visible on the train from Osaka to Tokyo, but he hadn’t seen it.
After a late night I woke up and found that Anhel had gone. The time 10.15 Oh dear, I have a meeting with an old friend in one hour across town!
Don’t run on the Tokyo Metro.
I got up and went straight to the subway and contemplated the route that would get me to my destination on time. Despite wanting to run, I am aware of the Japanese etiquette and calmness they personify, even when in a rush. Also there are plenty of signs around the subway stations saying “Don’t run.”
Remember I told you I had mastered the Tokyo subway. I have. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare.
At exactly 11.15 I could see a figure in the distance I could see a figure running in my direction now, even though you couldn’t make out who it was. I knew it was Yoichi. He was also the only Japanese salaryman I saw without a tie on.
Tokyo restaurant – looks closed but isn’t.
Yoichi took me for an early lunch as he had a meeting at 1. We approached a building that looked distinctly closed. When he announced, look it says it is open. Of course it does!
Here there were no plastic meals and no photos. But Yoichi ordered – Sukiyaki and Sashimi. I have since learnt that it was served in the nabemono style, with a flame burning under the meat pot, and the meat and vegetables dipped in a beaten egg.
I used to play football with Yoichi a few years ago and he showed me the pitch where he now plays right in the middle of this urban jungle, near Osaki station. The rate – US$ 200 an hour.
After this I headed to the Samurai Museum. Now normally I am not keen on Japanese museums as they have in the past neglected foreigners.
This was different. It started with a samurai giving a demonstration of sword moves. When he moved to attack he let out a scream, which made a young child jump. At the end he apologised most gracefully and acknowledged that the samurai could be frightening.
Samurai Museum, Tokyo.
Then with two others I was given a guided tour of the two floors. A detailed explanation was given of the items on display and what was happening in the country at the time.
I learnt that the Japanese were only saved by Kami-no-kaze (a divine wind) in the 13th century from invasion by the Mongols. That disposable blades were used by the samurai, as the iron they originally used for swords gave them three strikes, after that the blade was no longer sharp.
Samurai Museum, Tokyo.
Upon enquiring about the various different pieces of head gear I learnt that as well as the man on the moon there is also a rabbit!
Also one of the masks with Antlers was based on shishigama, the ancient spirit of the forest that looks like something straight out of today’s Manga comics (or phone download).
It was noticeable that some of the outfits were bigger than the others. This was explained by the fact that this family were allowed to eat meat. Those practising Buddhism or Shinto were not allowed meat according to their religion. A definite disadvantage especially if you can only use your sword three times.
Mt. Fuji on the phone.
And we went out for something to eat. Despite trying to be adventurous we ended up with the picture menu, but still didn’t know what we had eaten. It is no wonder Japan is so clean , as cleaners’ machines play childlike tunes which could have been made for the child catcher. They must grow up thinking I want to do that. Everywhere I went was spotless as cleaners clean what is already clean.
On the afternoon of the Final, I arranged to meet Yoichi at Shibuya Station. It is vitally important when arranging to meet that you know the exact spot. Shibuya has 16 exits and is spread over 3 floors. It is like a maze with shops just outside the platform. I believed I had the right spot. Miyanasuzuka Central Gate near Exit 9. Sure enough, a voice appeared out of the crowd, sorry I am late.
Real Madrid and Atletico Nacional half and half scarves.
This time there was a large crowd gathering, as the Japanese turned out in force. The half and half scarves still bore the names of Real Madrid and Atletico Nacional, testament to the fact that this was the fixture they expected.
During the break the crowd got excited as a song was played, Yoichi asked if I knew it? Of course I didn’t but if you are ever in Japan rest assured that they all know the English words Pen, Pineapple, Apple, Pen and if they have forgotten you can always do the hand moves to remind them.
After Kashima’s heroic efforts, in the Final taking Real Madrid to extra time, where they were only thwarted by Ronaldo’s samurai moves. It was time to dash back to Shibuya, for something to eat.
Yoichi worked out the route and I suggested we could get off at Naka-Meguro. We did. As I looked around and saw nothing, He pointed and said shall we go over there? Sure enough on the 2nd Floor was a restaurant. I left the choice of food to him. Cabbage for starters, Chicken for main course, more cabbage because it was so good with the dip that came with it and then peas for desert. So I finished my trip to Japan poppin’ peas with the sound of the Kashima supporters Big Echo in my ears…..Life goes on.
Club World Cup Final 2016.
P.S. In case you were wondering. Yes I came back to London via the same route I came. I had been issued my ticket for the Beijing to London flight at Tokyo, with a boarding time of 12.00, we arrived at 11.30.
Knowing the procedure I confidently marched forward without looking and being confused by the transfer signs. I headed straight for the stairs where I remembered there was a small queue waiting for their security inspection. This time I couldn’t see the entrance to the stairs due to the throng of people. I then realised that the last 50 metres of people I had marched past were in the queue! Looking around, for once I could see no sign of officialdom. I caught someone, coming out of an office and explained my dilemma, showing them the time now and the time on my boarding pass. She pointed to the back of the queue. Knowing that the security was strict I couldn’t see me making the plane if I did. I briefly wondered if there was any football in Beijing that night, before finding someone else to ask. This time I got an agreeing nod, and a red sticker slapped on my arm. She pointed to the front of the queue and said “Go, go”.
I passed the first passport check. At the top of the stairs there was a sign ‘Boarding 12.00’ it was closed. I then made my way down said stairs. There a young man was directing the flow, once again I explained and he sent me to the back of the queue. Which still looked as though I would miss the plane if I waited. I explained to passengers and to those that didn’t speak English showed them my boarding card. Everyone understood. (Obviously they were not Chinese). I made the gate and the stern stewardess did not break a smile or offer a greeting as I gave in my boarding card, just as we walked the final few yards there was time for a gentleman(!) to pull a bin out from under an alcove and spit in it.