To start off today’s news post (because the Chiba-FCT game is on some obscure satellite channel and I can’t watch it), Kajiyama’s out for 1-2 weeks after taking a knock to the shin. It appears that wunderkind Soutan Tanabe is taking his place in the lineup tonight. That should be interesting.
Now, for the scarier bit: as the H1N1 flu strain spread across Japan (as of this writing 230-something cases in three prefectures, plus the four travellers stopped at Narita Airport), professional sports teams are struggling to protect fans while not giving up the unique homefield advantage that Japanese cheering squads offer.
FC Tokyo has, for its part, announced that fan service at Kodaira Ground is suspended for the forseeable future as of today (May 20th). In the past, players stop by the “fan area” following practice to take photos, sign autographs, and shake hands from the loyal supporters who come to watch. Fans will still be allowed to attend open practices, however players will go straight to the locker room instead of passing by the fan area.
FC Tokyo is far from the only soccer team to take measures to prevent flu transmission. Before last Saturday’s match, the mayor of Yokohama appeared to promote a triathalon of some sort as well as to encourage people to wear masks and wash their hands and not flood hospitals with phone calls. J2 squad Roasso Kumamoto is suspending pre-game fan events (including autograph sessions). Also while these are Kyoto fans the pic is too lulzy to pass up on:
On the baseball side of things, the Hanshin Tigers have stopped selling “jet balloons” (long, thin balloons traditionally launched en masse during the 7th inning stretch) and discouraged fans from releasing them at games. Similar steps have been taken by the Orix Buffaloes, Yakult Swallows, and Softbank Hawks.