Football: Fanfare at Japan's arrival

Football: Fanfare at Japan's arrival

Their flight details to Singapore were not announced to the public, as they were hoping to slip into the country like ninjas.

But some 200 fans of the Japanese national football team turned up at the Changi Airport Terminal 2 last evening to welcome the Blue Samurai, ahead of their friendly against Brazil on Tuesday at the National Stadium.

This was despite the travelling contingent missing Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa, who showed symptoms of concussion after Japan's 1-0 win over Jamaica in Niigata on Friday.

Some supporters turned up at Terminal 1 after 4pm, expecting the Asian giants to fly in from Japan, but rushed to the other terminal after hearing that they would fly in from Seoul instead.

About 80 fans - both local and foreign - crowded the barriers set up by the airport staff at 7pm, when The New Paper arrived.

Japanese expat Maiko Suzuki, who with her friends and her children were decked out in the famous blue jerseys, waited patiently for their idols' arrival.

"We were very shocked to hear that Kagawa was injured and disappointed that he is not coming, but we are excited to be able to see the other players, such as (Keisuke) Honda," said the homemaker, who is in her 30s and has lived in Singapore for about 10 years.

"We usually follow our team on television and on the Internet, so it is great to be able to see them in person."

Justin Lim, 16, was also wearing the Japan jersey but, ironically, he supports Brazil, the Asian team's opponents on Tuesday.


"I like certain Japanese players such as Kagawa, Honda and (Yuto) Nagatomo, and it is quite disappointing that Kagawa won't be coming," said the student, who was with his friends and his father.

"I'll definitely be supporting Brazil on Tuesday though."

Similarly, Rin Tok and two friends were decked out in Japan's jerseys, and armed with scarves and banners of their favourite players.

"It's guesswork; they played last night, the match is on Tuesday and they would need to train before that, so we guessed it would be today," said the accounts administrator, who is in her 20s, when asked how they knew of the team's arrival.

The crowd gradually swelled, and anticipation filled the air for about half an hour after the team's Korean Air flight was confirmed to have landed.

The players emerged from the restricted area at 7.48pm, looking dapper in their dark suits and ties but tired and polite - if not indifferent - to the commotion, as they snaked their way to the waiting coach outside.

Shrieks of "Honda, Honda" filled the air, as the AC Milan playmaker - decked out in fashionable sunglasses - occasionally obliged fans with autographs.

The fans surged to the entrance of the team's coach when a queue formed to board the bus, as cameras and mobile phones broke through the canopy of human heads to capture their stars in close proximity.

Despite waving and screaming, the players who were seated in the bus on the side of the kerb did not turn to acknowledge the fans after they were settled down, not even after the coach moved off.

Not that the fans cared though.

"Honda patted one of the children, they are very happy now," Suzuki said.

This article was first published on Oct 12, 2014.
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