With J.League less than 2 weeks away, I figure it's about time to make public (or at least official) what I hope to be this site's big initiative for the 2010 season.
On Sunday evening, I attended a meeting at EL LOCO in Tokyo. This meeting didn't produce any answers (nor was that its intention), but was instead meant to ask an important question:
Where do Tokyo's supporters go from here?
With the 3rd-highest attendance in J1 (nearly 26,000 per game in 2009, trailing Niigata and Urawa), top-tier finishes in the last two years, and a recent championship that was one of the fastest sellouts in recent memory. Yet, when 26,000 attend each Tokyo home game, over 20,000 seats are still empty in the cavernous Ajinomoto Stadium.
The unfortunate reality is that a capital team in a capital city has to compete with… a lot of other things in the capital. In Tokyo's case there are are two professional baseball teams, hundreds of livehouses, clubs, and bars (any one of them running an event on a particular night), movie theaters, and some minor-league pissant soccer club that wears green uniforms. There are any number of reasons as to why those 20,000 seats are empty, the question is what can be done to fill them.
I've been supporting Tokyo for nearly 3 years now and recently received my fourth SOCIO pin in the mail; the team is responsible for a lot of friendships I have made and incredible experiences I have had since I came to Japan. I made this site on a dare from users over at The Rising Sun, it's now taken on a mission to spread news of FC Tokyo to English-speaking fans both in the city and around the world. Supporting the team has been a life-altering experience and I've always encouraged my friends and colleagues to join me behind the goal. I believe that while we have yet to take part in international competition, Tokyo has the potential to be a world-class club team and more supporters outside of Japan should be paying attention to what we're up to.
To that end, beginning near the end of last season I started considering how I could start to do this on a greater scale. The obvious answer was, much like the S-Pulse UK Ultras or the now-defunct (?) MOIST, to start a supporter's group aimed towards non-Japanese supporters, especially those who might not consider supporting a Japanese team when they have a team back home cheer for.
But of course, that would be way too exclusive; and would defeat the purpose of a supporter's group: to have fun, to make friends, and to share in victory and defeat together. So, in the spirit of Tokyo's international community, obviously an international supporter's group was called for.
Therefore, after consulting with several friends and supporters on both sides of the pacific, my previously-stated goal of having an internationally-oriented supporter's group will move forward under the name TOKYO DAMACY 1999. I've applied for and received penya status from the club; we're #74.
For now, the goal is to start gathering regularly at the stadium or after matches and then hopefully move towards more proactive support (away trips, making flags/banners, you name it).
I've written up FAQs in both English and Japanese, those can be found here (or on the TOKYO DAMACY 1999 tab now included in the top navigation):
TOKYO DAMACY 1999 FAQ – English
TOKYO DAMACY 1999 FAQ – 日本語
My idea for what I hope this penya to become is included in these FAQs, so hopefully once you read it you'll understand the possibility of what we can accomplish (and will want to join in on the fun!)
To start with, our first official gathering will take place on March 6th, after the Yokohama match. The location will probably be Kenny's Irish Pub in Chofu, just because it's so close to the stadium and will probably have enough room for all of us (whether we're 5 or 15). If you're interested in attending, leave a comment or drop me an email at email@example.com. Exact details (including times and directions) will be posted here in the near future.
I'm not quite sure how big this will become, but I know how big it can become and how big supporters I've talked to believe it will become. I hope to meet their expectations.