Australia vs. Japan
By Kazuya Muto
"So where are you going to watch the soccer today?" That's how everyone greeted each other June 12, the day of the World Cup match between Australia and Japan. Some would go to a pub and watch it on a big screen; others would go to a friend's house and watch the game there; I wasn't really sure what I would do.
At first I planned to go to a pub with some Japanese friends, because I was a little uneasy about supporting Japan alone among a crowd of Australians. But an Australian friend invited me to watch the game with him, and I decided to go with him.
Around 10 p.m., about an hour before the game started, he picked me up in front of my house and said, "Jump in. We're going to my friend's house." We reached the house, opened the door, and there were Aussies, Aussies, Aussies everywhere! There were more than 15 Australians in the living room.
"Hey, guys," my friend said. "I brought a friend from Japan!" Everyone in the room turned, stared and started booing. Of course, they were kidding, but I was still a little daunted. They noticed this, and laughed kindly and told me to help myself to some chips and cake. They were so friendly and easy-going. I liked them straight away. Of course, they all told me that Australia would win the match.
The game started at 11 sharp. Suddenly everybody was concentrating on the game and acting like they were the coach of the Australian squad. They shouted at the players on screen: "What are you doing!? You stupid ... ! I hate you!" or "Go! Go! Go! Give him the ball!"
Then, around 30 minutes into the first half, Shunsuke Nakamura scored a goal! I was about to jump into the air and yell, "Yeah!! I love you, Nakamura!!" but I held back. Everyone around me had lowered their heads, sighing, "Oh my God." So I just mumbled, "Yes!" under my breath and left it at that.
The second half started. Compared with the first half, the Australian team was much bolder in its attack. Everyone shouted encouragement to the players. Whenever a Japanese player fell and took his time getting up they yelled: "Oh, come on! Get up!" Thirty minutes went by with neither side scoring a goal. Everyone in the room looked a little tired, and spirits were low.
But around 10 minutes before the final whistle, Australia scored a goal! Immediately everyone was shouting and hugging and high-fiving each other. I got a hug from the person sitting next to me too. I couldn't understand what everyone was shouting. They just seemed to explode with emotion. The way they expressed their feelings was very dramatic.
Australia amazingly went on to score two more goals. The room was in chaos. Everyone was so excited. I got caught up in the excitement and became confused which team I was supporting.
The game came to an end. "That was an amazing game! Wow!" everyone said. "Sorry for Japan, Kazu!" I didn't know what to say, I didn't know how to express my feelings. I felt excited, I felt like I was an Aussie supporter, even though I'm Japanese and Japan had just lost the game. I told everyone I'd take a photo. "Next match, I'm supporting Australia," I said. "For Australia!" I took the photo. Someone said, "I love you, man."
It took about an hour to calm down. Watching soccer makes people go crazy, but it tears down the barriers between strangers. Australians love sport, they are so friendly and they are so expressive. They're great people to have as friends. I really enjoyed myself that night.
Shukan ST: June 30, 2006
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