Japan & the Copa América

Pegamequemegusta decides to actually Report on sport:

Japan FA president Junji Ogura began making his way to South America on Sunday (shouldn’t he be here by now?) to say that Japan aren’t going to take part in this year’s Copa América, which will be held in Argentina. News on this is sketchy, I must say. The quotes circulating don’t make too much sense.

A none-too-flattering photo of JFA president Junji Ogura

Apparently he had been talking to someone from Nikkan Sports. Unfortunately they follow the precepts of classic epic poetry in that appear to begin in media res. Now pegamequemegusta is a big foam rubber-hand-waving fan of epic poetry, but news reports rarely come off the better for adopting said precepts.

“We asked them to allow us to participate [in the Copa América] and they agreed.”

Yes, fine, we knew Japan were going to play. What else is new? Well, in a non sequitur that would make a senile dog blush with fleeting memories of a once-defiled rug, he is reported to have said:

“I will have to explain the decision in Japan as it is not our decision to make.”

To who? I thought we were listening to the president of the Japanese football association. And if it’s not your decision, whose is it?

“They [CONMEBOL, I suppose] understand we have to use July for rescheduled J-League matches.”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Yet the most important information in the piece comes as an aside to this comment: “[…] while stating Japan’s involvement in the July tournament is now impossible.” ‘While stating’? Jaysus, if Reuters had reported on the Jesufixion, they’d probably have said: ”Sanhedrin admits he likes toast, whilst admitting gnawings of remorse at the passing of possible Lord and Saviour.’

All the websites we’ve perused sadly this evening repeat the same few quotes as if they’re perfectly coherent. This makes us scratch our chin and reach for our lighter, awaiting enlightenment from the poisonous thought clouds. But no, they’re silly quotes. Shame on the web for repeating them so often. Pegamequemegusta don’t speak no Japanese, but surely someone out there does and must have read Nikkan Sports and come up with a better translation and/or with more information by now.

UPDATE: this morning, thankfully, the net has provided a better translation, via the AFC. JFA President Ogura said he would have to explain to the members of CONMEBOL what the situation is in Japan [not the ‘decision’] and ask them what they reckon should be done. Diplomatically, he was just avoiding making a unilateral statement before meeting up with his counterparts in Asunción.

It’s doubly frustrating as we were really looking forward to Japan coming down here. After all, it’s not as if their football season has been cancelled due to the tragedy of the other week. That would be another matter entirely. No, it is expected the country will be in a fine enough condition again  in July for the missed fixtures to be made up. This surprises us. Instead of the country tuning in to see their World Cup sex machines and champions of Asia expose Checho’s més que un cliché rhetoric (they had been drawn in Group A along with the hosts, Bolivia and Colombia), with all the joy and pride that would surely bring, they’ll be watching the petty little dull league fixtures that characterise any other weekend, but this time oddly out of season.

Though we do enjoy a good ignorant hand-sweeping slur as much as the next man, this is not one: the quality of the J-League is not the question; more that we hold international football in much higher esteem than leagueball. And even those who don’t must surely admit that this kind of situation, unpalatable as it may be, is pretty much the main reason for international football: a national coming together, collective good times.

Nor do we care about any difficulty this decision may put CONMEBOL in. We just don’t understand the decision. After all, their fine performances at the World Cup last year ensured moves for many of Japan’s players. Though they have a fine tradition of producing highly delicate players, they now appear to have more than ever before playing in Europe, with teams like Inter, CSKA, Wolfsburg and, er, Leicester City.

According to Japan’s ‘current squad‘, fourteen out the twenty-six players would be involved in J-League games in July. However, there is a good spread in the clubs involved; the maximum number of players one club would lose (the delightfully-named Kashima Antlers) is three players; and no other team would lose more than one. This is hardly an insurmountable problem.

UPDATE: the link above also contains a heretofore missing quote about Japan coach Zaccheroni’s take on all this:

“He (Zaccheroni) naturally wants to play against the strong teams,” Ogura said. “He understands that it is not realistic to consider sending a team with the best members” because of the disruption to the domestic calendar.

So he’s not doing much at all, then. Again it’s a clunky translation, though. Surely it should say: ‘he understands it is unlikely the best players will be available to travel.’ Qué sé yo.

Hence our puzzlement and frustration. Japan being here was going to be great. At the last Copa América in 2007, the USA – usually one of the invited teams – sent a dud squad of youth players to what is already a weak enough competition. At that time, Chile had yet to undergo their Bielsan revolution and Uruguay weren’t as purposeful a team as they appear to be now – despite their corker against Brazil in the semis, which they incredibly contrived to lose on penalties. Japan would give any of those teams a good game. Moreover, we hoped their touch of class might diffuse what at times can be an overload of South American aggression. Clichéd though it may be, it’s very real.

Yet it appears we won’t be able to enjoy any of that this July as a couple of squad players with a handful of caps between them have to dispute rainy nights in Stokeahama. It’s all very strange. We await some fresh answers from the interweb. All that’s been able to provide so far is rumours over who’ll be taking Japan’s place. As soon as the extent of the disaster in Japan became clear, people began to speculate on this matter: the USA, Honduras and Costa Rica were all mentioned. The horrendously-titled CONCACAF Gold Cup being on in June, however, this seems somewhat unlikely. Some Australian pundits seem to think they should be involved as they have a mysterious but heartfelt southern hemispherean bond and they beat Germany in some recent friendly or other.

We here at pegamequemegusta disagree, however. The only real candidate is a land bereft with sorrow at its own cowardice and the scattering of its wingless children far from home to warmer countries with prettier ladies. Yes, it’s FIFAfrica 2010’s 33rd team, the Republic of Ireland. Ireland, too, are adept at making a battle out of a game with basically any team, be it Andorra or Argentina (both managed the same amount of goals against us in recent months). Besides, Australia have already hoovered up a sizeable portion of our most productive youth and GAA players. Ol’ Gil needs this real bad. And it’s a real possibility: after all we’ve yet to come across any streets or squares named for Australian-Argentines anywhere. ¡Viva Almirante Guillermo Brown carajo!

(Incidentally, Saturday was actually the 29th anniversary of the Malvinas conflict. It’s a national holiday here. We once translated a decent short story on the matter. It does a good job of underlining the various hypocrisies the wasteful feud involved).


One thought on “Japan & the Copa América”

  1. I was confused by this. I was recounting to Smythy that Japan had withdrawn from the tournament, then when I went to check wikipedia on the tournament and copa america website, they definitely hadn’t. it is a real shame that they aren’t going. obvious replacement candidate would surely be south korea as a standard bearer of asian football with similar standards. it’d be scandalous if they got no one to fill the place. would be the biggest victory of insurance companies and the nothingness that is every football federation. Where would the World and Curo Cup history be without random stories about teams qualifying for tournaments or pulling out of them for random reasons like because they were at war (Yugoslavia) or because they liked to play without boots and weren’t allowed to (India), or because they said they would only go to the tournament if they beat England in the Home Nations tournament even though had qualified (Scotland) and so on.

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