09 December 2008

The Next Day

On December 7, the day after Mito's last match of the season, The club hosted a couple of activities that were fairly eventful.

In the early afternoon was fan appreciation day, as the club hosted the fans on the Holly Pitch training ground. After a few speeches and cheerleader dances, there were several stations where fans and players could participate together. Setting up a cross for a striker to shoot in, dribbling around cones against a midfielder, etc. I only really had interest in the PK shot, and after scoring against him last time goalkeeper Honma stopped this year's shot. During this time the team trainers offered free massages, and a few of the players made hot soup and gave it out to the fans in attendance. It was a nice gesture that coincidentally looked more than a little like giving meals to the homeless.

After the fan participation stations, the team split into three and played a round robin tournament of comedy matches. What the Harlem Globetrotters are to basketball, Mito's fan appreciation game is to soccer. After some good natured fun, the losing team stood in a line to get hit in the face with cream pies by the winning team. That's the tradition, but in a surprising twist, star forward Arata, who played for the losing team, was held in place by everyone else on that team and he received a barrage of 12 cream pies to his face and head area from the winning team.

After this, I was in front as part of a group receiving a certificate of appreciation as one of the unsung heroes who donate countless hours helping the club on match day arranging all the things fans take for granted. Not that it isn't done by choice, of course. I can quit anytime I want, I swear!

After this I stayed in front, this as part of a fan group giving awards to certain players. There were eight awards and I made a small speech on the last one, handing over the MVP statuette and gift box to forward Arata.

After all was finished, the players and staff lined up and all the fans walked between them to be thanked for their support. Duringthis time I took the chance to thank outgoing midfielder Shingyoji. It was seeing his first goal that made me a fan of the team originally.

That evening I attended a separate reception only open to club staff, stadium staff, and cheerleaders. Food was provided by team sponsor Alto restaurant and it was a great low-key affair. I spoke for a long time with the club president, manager Kiyama, and met the club staff member in charge of finding and recommending players. I learned a lot more about organizing and running a pro club, and felt secure about Mito's own plans. The people running things now are very positive and the money is being handled very responsibly. Of course someone like Christiano Ronaldo or even just regular old Ronaldo won't get an offer from Mito anytime soon, but the team is in safe financial shape until the day that such support is there to allow big money offers to be made.

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