Home
Feature
The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Travel
Tech Know
Sports
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Music
Japan Beat
Clubbing
Art
Stage
Books
The Agenda
Listings
TV
Movies
Dining Out
Sake
Wine
Tastemaker
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
Classifieds
Jobfinder
Horoscope
Mailbox
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
Archive
About Us
Subscribe
Search
Distribution Points






 PAST ISSUES
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ainít Easy Being Green
769: íTwas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Letís Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: Iíll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes íRí Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japanís Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters ďRĒ Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthingís Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Cafť Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Childís play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Jack Halibutt

Field of schemes

Japan and North Korea show mutual admiration both on and off the pitch

Jack Halibutt is a Tokyo-based sportswriter

There’s nothing like a World Cup qualifier between Japan and North Korea to bring out the magnanimous side of the two soccer-loving Asian neighbors.

Soon after Japan was drawn to play the reclusive communist nation in home and away matches—the first of which is February 9 at Saitama Stadium—the love started flowing like warm sake on a cold night in Niigata.

Still smarting from an unpleasant experience in China last July, when Japan’s fans were unceremoniously pelted with debris during the Asian Cup, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he was looking forward to the matches and called for kind words from both sides leading up to the games.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, wearing his best brown jumpsuit, vowed to watch the games from his palatial residence while munching on an assortment of international delicacies, washed down with the bubbly lashings of Dom Perignon.

After the draw, the North Koreans started the ball rolling by kindly asking that national anthems not be played before the matches. Japan, citing FIFA rules, politely turned down the request, instead offering to have Chuck Jenkins sing Kimigayo.

Next, the North Koreans pleasantly tried to bar Japanese journalists from their practice sessions in China. While the Japanese media covering the national team do seem to require ten journalists to do the work of one, the North was a bit unreasonable on this one. Guess there aren’t too many papers over there.

Who knows what lavish treatment is in store when Japan travels to North Korea for the away leg? Something tells me the Pyongyang Hilton will be fully booked.

But hey, there’s a lot on the line here! This is serious stuff—nothing less than the opportunity to go to Germany in 2006 and get sent home after the first round.

Meanwhile in Japan, we are inundated with daily reports on the Japanese squad as they prepare for the all-important match. Every night a different player is trotted out before the TV cameras and dutifully says “I will do my best; this is a very important game for us.” If only somebody would say, “I hate those commie so-and-sos—we’re going to blow them away like lint!”

Two North Korean players, Ri Han Jae and An Yong Hak, play in the J. League and will no doubt fill their teammates in on Japan’s strengths and weaknesses. Japan coach Zico will ask Jenkins what he knows of the North Koreans. “Chuck, is it a 4-2-4 system or a flat three?”

Without question, the North Koreans will be tough as nails. Years spent toiling under the watchful eye of Big Brother in a reclusive communist nation tends to toughen one up. Unfortunately, most of the players on Zico’s squad look like they just walked off the set of a SMAP TV special. Let’s face it, Tsuneyuki “How does my hair look?” Miyamoto hardly strikes fear in the eyes of your average comrade.

If you look at the scientifically calculated FIFA rankings it should be a walkover. Japan is 19th while North Korea is a distant 97th. One thing for sure is that 70,000 Japanese fans will cram into Saitama Stadium on the night of February 9, jump up and down in unison, and serenade their side with the theme songs from The Sting and The Great Escape. What’s Paul Newman got to do with it?

As for a prediction, Japan will characteristically score an incredibly lucky goal in the waning minutes of injury time to win 1-0. Japan’s Alessandro Santos (who doesn’t look very Japanese to me) is the hero when his corner bounces off the head of a North Korean defender and into the net as the goalkeeper slips on a suspiciously slick patch of grass. After the match, Japan coach Zico will say his team played well but will have to play better in Pyongyang. The North Korean coach will say the fix was in and will promise revenge back home.

And that, my friends, is what sport is all about! FIFA fair play indeed. M

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

top