Saturday, August 8, 2015

Team sports, national pride and national pleasure

Japan doesn't have a national sport in the sense of a global rivalry. To have that it needs a team with history and legacy and although it is a potent force in Asian soccer, that's more a reflection of Asia than the Japanese national team, talented individuals many of them may be. But a national sport is more about the passion and the pride of a country than it is about individual players, and that raises the obvious question - why?

If you think of soccer the great rivalries that spring to mind are endless, Holland - Germany, Germany - England, Brazil - anyone; with rugby the same pattern appears with the great southern hemisphere teams of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa wreaking havoc over England, France and the rest of the northern countries on a four yearly basis. And indeed cricket, where the Ashes are played for pride and not players or India vs Pakistan where everyday people, rather than asking 'what's the score', will ask 'what's THE score'. There is simply nothing else to talk about.

Japan has many outstanding individual athletes, swimmers who break world records, gymnasts who perform incredible feats or ice skaters who can take on the best and win with grace. But team sports are still developing. Schools focus on soccer, baseball and basketball but only soccer is genuinely a global sport (some would argue but simply ask them to name the captain of their national baseball team). However that's not the point. Sport is about national and personal pride and pleasure, it's about the crowd cheering as much as the player shooting for the goal. But in Japan in 2015, genuinely, it's not about a single stadium.

Playing for pride

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