Last night my friend Josep and I took our boys to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League game between our home Gamba Osaka and Shanghai SIPG Football Club. It was our first time to the new Suita City Stadium, which is absolutely gorgeous and a great place to watch soccer. The visitors won 2-0 virtually eliminated Gamba from the competition, but we had a great time anyway.
The Suita Stadium is conveniently located only about a 15-minute bike ride from our house as Suita is a suburb of Osaka that borders on Minoh. The 40,000 seat stadium opened this winter and it was our initial visit. I loved the rectangular shape of the stadium, without an athletic track that puts spectators really close to the field like in many English Premier League stadiums. I was not sure about the seat location when I purchased them online. We were in the “family” section and the reasonably priced tickets (1,500 Yen for children and 2,500 Yen for adults) gave us seats a few rows from the field behind one of the goals. On the opposite side of the stadium were the fervent Gamba supporters and they provided a nice backdrop with their singing and chanting through the game, similar to the European professional leagues.
Shanghai International Port Group FC had a much better team and game and deserved the victory. The coach is the famous ex-England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and they had a couple of high-priced stars in Conca (Argentina) and Elkeson (Brazil). They dominated play and fortunately, the two goals in the second half came on our side of the field.
It was interesting to watch the China versus Japan dynamic played out in the stands. We were near the visiting fan section. Several Gamba supporters tried to raise a sign that I couldn’t read but it had something about Shanghai. A Chinese fan grabbed the sign and eventually threw it on the field before being escorted out by security. There is a lot of tension between the two countries, stemming back from Japanese takeover and occupation of China last century. I felt like watching the future conflict between the two countries as China is growing economically. It is the first time in a long time that both Japan and China are doing well economically and I wonder what the repercussions will be for the Asia Pacific region. I hope they can cooperate for the benefit of citizens from both countries.
We had a great night as fathers and sons bonding over sport and it was a thoroughly entertaining night. We might head to another game in the regular J1 professional league this season, although Gamba is currently in 12th place in an 18-team league after 5 games.