Tonight Japan plays Iraq in a friendly soccer game at the Yokohama Stadium, thirty minutes out of Tokyo. In 2002 the stadium hosted the World Cup Final where Brazil put a very lucky Germany to the sword. Interestingly it was also the venue for Japan to mark its first ever win in the World Cup, beating Russia 1-0 a few weeks earlier. That game set the highest television viewing figures since the 1964 Olympics. It was probably one of the few times in history that Akebono, the sumo Grand Champion, and Kimu Taku, the heart-throb singer from SMAP, wrestled each other for seat space as they sat to watch the game. Those were good times.....
Tonight will also mark the rather sad continued exile of the Iraq team as it is forced to play their games in away stadiums. It's been nearly three decades since the team could play at home. Players have been born, grown up, played for their country and retired, all in that time. But tonight at least, the fans around the world of both the Japanese and Iraqi teams will be able to hear the commentary in English as well as their mother tongue. And it's all down to NHK which has taken the gamble (for which they should be applauded) to retain a foreign commentator. Actually, he's a Japan based, English, Spanish, Japanese speaking, successful music producer who also happens to have a life long passion for football, going by the name of JJ.
The commentary has been available in English for Japan's home games for the last few months and the idea is outstanding, addressing one of the basic problems of the Japanese language. Almost no one outside Japan speaks it. There's just one more step for NHK to make. Please, please, please make the broadcasts available in English, in Japan. Currently it's only available overseas. Seriously, where are the most non-Japanese speaking fans sitting watching the games? It's not London... Gambare Nippon!
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