Football: Go Japan, go Brazil

Football: Go Japan, go Brazil
Blue Samurai: front row, L-R) Hajime Hosogai, Gaku Shibasaki, Yuto Nagatomo, Gotoku Sakai, and Yoichiro Kakitani, (2nd row, L-R) Eiji Kawashima, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Mizumoto, Masato Morishige, Yuya Osako, and Keisuke Honda.

A mass of blue is expected to flood Kallang on Oct 14, when Japan play Brazil in a glamour international friendly at the National Stadium.

Kazuki Sasahara and his family - four, or maybe even all five of them - will be part of the famous Blue Samurai following, which will occupy a section of the 55,000-seater stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.

He will, however, be the among the very few who will raise a cheer whether Dunga's Brazil or Javier Aguirre's Japan finds the back of the net.

Though a true-blue Japan fan, Kazuki makes no secret of his love for the Selecao, having lived in the Gunma prefecture in Japan for a number of years; an area where a large Brazilian community also resides.

The 37-year-old businessman also used to travel frequently to Rio de Janeiro when he was in charge of his company's dealings there. "I'm quite familiar with the Brazilian culture," Kazuki told The New Paper.

"Actually, I'm quite neutral for this game. I love both teams, and I just want to see a very exciting match.

"You seldom get a chance to see these two teams play each other, live."


Kazuki, a Saitama native who has lived in Singapore for seven years, bought tickets for the match a day after sales opened.

The Sasaharas - husband Kazuki, wife Hiroko, son Yamato and daughter Meri - will be attending the match with 25 others from Kazuki's local softball team.

It will not be the first time he will see the Blue Samurai "live".

The 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea and Kazuki watched his countrymen draw 2-2 with Belgium in a World Cup group game at the Saitama Stadium.

"I watched that game with my wife, before we were married," he said.

"I remember that World Cup very well. After Japan were knocked out (in the second round), I supported Brazil, and they went on to win the Cup."

Kazuki cited AC Milan playmaker Keisuke Honda as his favourite player, and when he travelled to Russia in early 2013, he took the chance to watch Honda play for CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League.

"I was in Moscow for business, but I made a point to catch Honda in action," he said.

"There were a hundred or so Japanese in the stadium, all supporting Honda - in 2 deg C weather.

"CSKA won that game; Honda started and made one assist."

Honda, along with Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa, will be part of the Japan team that will be guided by new coach Aguirre here.

Brazil, helmed by former captain Dunga, have also promised to field their stars, including Neymar, Oscar and Coutinho, for the Oct 14 clash, which has already seen nearly 40,000 tickets snapped up.

Kazuki hopes the game will help convert his son, Yamato, into a football fan.

The 11-year-old isn't too interested in the beautiful game, preferring baseball or softball, instead.

"All four of us are going for the game. We might even bring the baby (two-month-old Isa), but it depends on his condition," Sasahara said.

"I've not been inside the new stadium yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about it.

"During the Juventus (v Singapore Selection) match (on Aug 16), I was playing softball at a field in Kallang and saw a lot of people going for the game.

"I'm excited. I just hope all the big players play. No injuries for both teams."

This article was first published on October 2, 2014.
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