Mito outplayed Tokyo Verdy in all ways but the one that counts. Since soccer isn't scored on judging, it's another loss and another three points in the divide between Mito and the rest of the field.
Unfortunately I couldn't see most of the game live because there was a massive crowd that filled Hitachinaka's stadium to beyond capacity. Since I was working the gate, I was going hard trying to keep nearly 4,000 fans in order going in and out of a single gate. There was too much to do until the final 10 minutes or so, unlike Kasamatsu which usually can allow watching from whistle to whistle. I had to see the recording at home late night after finishing stadium work.
Speaking of that crowd, the final number reached over 5,500 in a stadium that seats 5,000. (Well, "seats" are only in the higher priced section...) It marks the first time in 2007 that Mito's fan count was higher than another J. League game, and was in fact more than twice the size of Ehime's home game against Tokushima.
After the game, in the locker room area, I talked with a few Japanese players from both teams and tried to do the same with Hulk, but there was a language barrier there. As I headed back into the main hall from the locker room area, Tokyo coach Rui Ramos came out of the press room and walked just beside me. He seemed kind of shocked to see a white guy working in the back for Mito and after a brief exchange of greetings and the equivalent of "good game" on both sides, I wished him luck for the future. He honestly came off as very nice and personable, but then again he had just won a hard game against a team that had embarrassed him in the last meeting. He seemed in a hurry to leave so I resisted the urge to ask for a picture. I also resisted the urge to ask why he pitched a tantrum on the sidelines after his keeper refused to hold the ball at the end of the game. It was probably for the best.
He walked out of the front door to the waiting Tokyo fans who waited for player pictures and autographs. They were rabid and happy just to see them in person. On one hand, I was jealous that Tokyo had a fan base so rabid as to wait more than an hour just to see the players get on the bus. On the other, I felt bad for that fan base that the players seemed so inaccessable and untouchable, as if on a pedestal. I realized that different fan bases enjoy different teams in different ways. Mito's fans feel that they are closer to the team and know the players personally, supporting them one-on-one in addition to as a group. The downside is that if the team loses, the supporters don't just feel bad... The fans feel like losers, too.
After my roles were finished and I waited for the rest, those of us who were waiting grabbed a ball and headed out to the field, still pockmarked from the steps and slides of the match, and played around for a bit. A couple of others stood where the Tokyo front line had been less than two hours earlier, while I took goalkeeper Takeda's spot. Although I wasn't up against the top scorer in the division, I wish that Takeda had been as successful as I was for those few minutes.
Around three hours after the final whistle, I finally was able to head back to my car to make the drive home. As I put the key into the ignition, the lights on the field went out, and the first half of the season went dark. While no team can be mathematically eliminated from promotion at this point and thus hope must remain, it is clear that Mito is likely is headed to one of its worst season records ever despite playing some of its best quality games. I pondered that for a moment and came to the realization that it didn't matter. I feel so lucky to have this team and plan to do all I can to help it as much as possible.
I just kind of wish the wins would come along a little more often.