The Tigers and the Hello Kitty

We’re so 2014, Godzilla is so 1990 and late

2012 season is over for Japan and Korea.

Wah.

So, how did they go? The easy answer is of course – so-so. Still, Olympics semi-finalists and still the big boys on the block. But the feeling can be more complicated if you are an Australian supporter. With the failure to qualify for Brazil 14 still a good possibility (Japan, however, are there to give a hand), Australia will still relish tonight’s victory over a K-League Korean team, with the scorer, Rukavytsya and Cornthwaite (yep, needed some effort to spell their names) are under 30 years old. It’s been a very tough year for them, having failed to qualify for the Olympics and coping with life after…um…Harry Kewell and John Aloisi?

And Japan was close to get another bad verdict from me. First, was quite in bad mood after all chance to get a 2010-11 Japan jersey (the one worn by Honda in Qatar and Sawa in Germany) was closed. Should I order that gorgeous blue pajamas, although with it Japan failed to win an Olympic gold? Why it’s so hard to find Adidas stuff related to Blue Samurai around? And of course, Japan looked horrible in the second half away match against Oman – Yoshida played as bad as he is in Southampton these days and Honda seemed too tired to direct any build up.

Add that with the typical minimalist presentation by ESPN Asia/Star Sports – a pair of British with bland and pointless (as in having a point can offend anyone and they are told not to do that) comments and I have no chance to see them during half time and full time. As if I was watching an illegal video streaming or watching a pirated DVD – no extra and no perk of cover sheets.

So, Yasuhito Endo, 32 years old, 122 games for Japan (Steven Gerrard. Meh), leaped and aligned the ball toward the center, passing Ali al Habsi who anticipated his shot. Okazaki drove it home and for the next three minutes the stadium went silent. Cheerful Japanese girls lifted up a Hello Kitty float. Hello Kitty! Where else you can see it in a football stadium? Japan are yet to go to Brazil, but they will not finish the group in rank 4 or 5 for sure. And putting Australia in rank 2 with better goal difference to Oman (0 to -3, actually). I ended up ordering a scarf and a ‘Japan Soccer’ long sleeve.

Last Saturday, the Ulsan Munsu stadium featured a tiger that really looks like a menacing tiger, not the cutesy one like the Seoul Olympics mascot. Al Ahli supporters strengthened their players’ hearts with a cardboard saying something about Allah, but at full time, it was Kim Shin-wook and several other Koreans who kneed and raised their hands into the air, praising Jesus. Korea have won the Asian Champions League again and Ulsan will look forward to pummel the champions of Japan next month – Hiroshima, Sendai, Urawa, or Nagoya.

That Ulsan tiger must be menacing. But Japanese supporters should employ that Hello Kitty float more often – it will become the terror from the East. Really East, the place where the sun rises. Except when facing Korea, the message will be like this – I can be less manly and acts cutesy and I still kick your ass.

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The ballad of a jersey hunter

My love, my darling, I want you, so much

In April 2006, I bought a replica of Japan home shirt for the 2006 World Cup. The Adidas shirt was available earlier in a sports chain, some kind of Foot Locker if you will, than in Adidas official outlet. Nike also stocked South Korean away and home shirts and even shorts, although I chose to save my money. As every Japanese fan knows, the 2006 kit was a big shame (get used to it, said Italian and French fans in 2010. Maybe that’s why England stick with Umbro, haw haw).

In 2010, I was expecting for both Adidas and Nike Indonesia to stock the merchandise of my favorite teams. I didn’t live in Jakarta so when I found that the outlets supplied only kits for Brazil, France, Spain and so on, and when a national sports chain sold Puma t-shirts featuring African teams, I asked friends in Jakarta to check out Nike there. My priority was for Korea since I had registered myself as a South Korean fan (not only heartbreak of 2006, but because five English blokes had registered themselves as Japanese fans). They said the result in Jakarta was zilch.

Google yielded result of random trade forums where some dudes claimed to have that royal/deep deep blue Japanese shirt, pictured in less royal fashion – hung with a plastic coat hanger on a housing door, rather than folded neatly on table’s top. I hesitated to call them so I let it go. At the end of the day, I bought a generic blue polo with knitted fake JFA logo. It wasn’t an official polo. It is a fan polo shirt. And I struck luck – I found an official 2010 World Cup t-shirt featuring South Korea.

Hmm…sometimes I’m wondering about Korean expats. How did they get their Reds stuff? Straight from Korea? Or something from Singapore? Didn’t know since every match they stayed inside Korean restaurants rather in public bars like Western expats do.

On Easter Holiday I went to Bali and hoped to find better luck in a place populated by Western and Asian consumers. First of all, what I found was that Nike and Adidas stores in Bali focus more on selling swimming and running gears rather than football stuff. I literally fumed when I found a sports warehouse and found ADIDAS’ MEXICO AND PARAGUAY HOME SHIRTS. WTF, I yelled. Anyway, since it’s the time for Euro 2012, so Adidas stocks kits for second rate European teams like um, Scotland (have to appreciate their sympathy for Japan), Denmark (Japan beat ’em 3-1. That’s second rate stuff), and hosts Ukraine. I did found a large mug with a picture of a football wearing hanbok, with texts “South Korea” under it and “Chukbae!” on the other side. A leftover of summer 2010.

Now I’m comfortable with online purchase of PC games, I thought it comes to this – look for online sellers of Japan and South Korea kits. And maybe Singapore and HK and everything. Even twice in Singapore I refrained from buying their merchandises – and when both teams’ shirts were not available, I thought it was because it was already out of stock (on second thought, I went to Singapore months BEFORE AND AFTER the Asian Cup 11. Shouldn’t they were still on stock along with Australian shirts I used to hate?)

And yes, I’m a little bit late. Most online stores, usually based in the UK, say that Japan 2010-11 home are out of stock, and only XL size is left for the nice white away shirt. Based on experience, you should wear only fitting clothes, not clothes that, in a word of a teenage girl, makes you look like a dumpling. Right, what about t-shirts? Many stores sell $20 shirts which is nothing more than plain white t-shirt printed with flag and name of a country. That’s why every imaginable nation, including East Timor and Afghanistan, are in stock. There are indeed not many alternative merchandises for Japan and South Korea – I was looking for more fashionable stuff like hoodie, cap, jacket etc. A sport jersey has many drags – you don’t wear it for first dates and in Western countries, it’s forbidden in many pubs. It’s a very expensive item which is less usable than a t-shirt. So I guess people wear it to stadium, in the mall, when playing football on the park…and what else?

I settled for an home t-shirt with “Okazaki 9” on the backside. Dude scored the goal against Denmark and hattrick against Saudi in the Asian Cup. I couldn’t make credit card purchase so I signed up with PayPal. And had to wait for a couple of days before they verified my credit card account. I ordered that Okazaki jersey, and then came the reply – turned out it was out of stock. My money was refunded and as sign of apology, I got free airmail coupon for my next purchase. So I bought that away white shirt, which was only available in XL. Maybe I could treat it like an ice hockey shirt or something. But then, same – it’s out of stock.

What now? Buying that ugly 12-13 pajama shirt (which I will if they do great in Road to Brazil 14 and the Olympics), or settling for t-shirts? Even on my further quest, I was almost scammed by a Chinese website claiming to have 2010-11 Japan home shirt for $60, which fortunately had a very questionable checkout page.  Finally I went to a United States shop and bought Adidas’ Korea t-shirt for $5 (I know, KFA uses Nike, but as the official kit supplier of FIFA World Cup, Adidas is entitled to produce other merchandises) and a plain blue t-shirt printed with text and image “Japan – 2011 Champions”. It’s a plain blue shirt, but since maybe Adidas and JFA don’t sell something outside Japan to celebrate the Asian Champions and the Women World Cup champions, I have to appreciate some guys in Alabama for doing so.

The shipping and duties etc. cost more than the goods, but it’s still under $100 for two items. After waiting for about ten days, I got the shirts yesterday. Which I could wear to many places in pride.