My Team & I: Omiya Ardija

By Michael Hudson

Twitter: @DolphinHotel


Why Omiya Ardija?

As a Newcastle fan, I’m duty bound to root for wildly unsuccessful club sides wherever they can be found. When I moved to Japan my closest teams were the country’s most successful one, Kashima Antlers, the country’s most popular one, Urawa Reds, or Omiya Ardija, a tiny team who’d never finished any higher than fourth in J2. It wasn’t a particularly tough choice to make. I went along to see them play Kyoto Sanga and stood on a crowded, old-style terrace directly behind the goal.  A guy wearing sunglasses and an orange scarf pulled over his mouth spent the whole of the second half giving the finger to Kyoto’s keeper. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Favourite Player?

Naoki Ishihara, the best thing to come out of Gunma Prefecture since the bloke who invented the flash-drive. The best close range finisher in the league, he’s a bit like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only faster and with orange hair. For some unfathomable reason, he doesn’t get picked anywhere near as often as he should do.


Favourite Game?

2008’s come from behind win over Kawasaki Frontale in the final game before the mid-season break. We’d lost at home to Consadole Sapporo – the worst J1 team in living memory – the weekend before and were two-nil down at half time in Kawasaki. And then everything changed.  Kohei Tokita scored, Denis Marques equalised, and with three minutes left Yoshiyuki Kobayashi jogged up to take a free kick a metre inside his own half and hoisted it over Eiji Kawashima head. 3-2. Kawasaki finished second that year, three points adrift of Kashima Antlers.

Favourite Strip?

Omiya have inflicted some pretty horrendous kits on the unsuspecting public. If pushed for a favourite, I’ll admit to being reasonably fond of the white change top with parachute harness stripes Leandro wore in scoring that goal against FC Tokyo.

Worst thing about being an Ardija fan?

That we are the only club from Kanto (the region surrounding Tokyo which includes six of J1’s eighteen clubs) to be consistently ignored by the mainstream press. Last season we got into trouble for inflating crowd figures as our ex-president Seigo Watanabe wanted to hit his own (wildly over-ambitious) attendance targets. For a while, it looked like we might be relegated because of it but the J-League settled for Watanabe’s tearful mea culpa and a slap on the wrist.

Funniest Moment?

Watanabe’s resignation.

Favourite Moment?

Brazilian defender Leandro temporarily morphing into George Weah against FC Tokyo in the final minute of the second last game of the 2007 season. A true juggernaut of a run, he carried the ball the length of the pitch before slamming in a shot that relegated Hiroshima and kept us in J1 for yet another season. Moments like that are where babies come from.

We would like to dedicate this article to all those in Japan.

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