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World Cup in Sapporo Brouhaha


25 Apr 2002
Dear Japan Referencers:

One of the first venues for the World Cup, Sapporo, has finished its three-game allotment. It's last game, England vs Argentina, was potentially the most volatile with the fans, and the mass media and the police did their level best, IMHO, to scare people into believing that hooligans were going to take over our town.

Now that even the shouting is all over, it's time to woolgather on what happened. Not only were three ferries reserved by Immigration to cart troublemakers back to Honshu, 7300 police were imported to make the city streets and public transportation feel like Greece in the 1970's. Several places, instead of taking advantage of the long-awaited economic boon, were advised by the police to close their doors to all business for the duration. One prominent bilingual magazine in Sapporo (called Xene) even lent a hand in translating exclusionary "MEMBERS ONLY" signs perfectly into five languages (but not Japanese).

So what happened? There is too much to tell right here. But take a look at my backlog of live reports, records of exclusionary signs, and news articles from the New York Times and the IHT/Asahi on the subject.

Susukino Sapporo "Members Only" Signs June 3, 2002

And the World Cup isn't even halfway through yet!

Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Entering in the foreigner will hold back while holding the WORLD CUP for the
following reasons.
*In the hall because there is no staff who understands English.
*The card, the traveler's check, and the foreign currency: because it
CANNOT USE it at all.

outside the building are prohibited.
Thanks for the link, Debito!
Pretty funny when you think that the city of Sapporo took the time and money to erect a World Cup Statue (lack of better word) in front of Sapporo Station aying welcome in various languages.

@members only
My students wrote this off as Japanese over preparedness.
Better to turn away, then to deal with some kind of trouble.
This post is a little late, but.

It's easy to view this kind of action on the part of the Japanese authorities as an over-reaction, and I suppose you could say the actions of some people involved may have been based on prejudice against foreigners.

However, any British people who saw the recent undercover investigation into hooligan gangs on BBC TV (which mainly focused on English 'firms' but also had a report into Argentinian equivalents, among others) or lifetime football fans like myself who have witnessed trouble first-hand will understand that it is not possible to overestimate the threat of hooliganism. Basically, they are very organised gangs trying to cause fights/riots for the sheer thrill involved; it is a real problem and not just a case of media hype.

Football fans in England have become used to strict policing on matchdays, fixtures with a history of 'trouble' being scheduled at unusually early times (before bars are open) etc. No one is happy about it, but we accept it because it's the only way to stop the criminal minority from causing problems.
In the event, there was no trouble at the Argentina v England game. Still, if we're honest, a major reason is the expense of travelling from to Japan rather than a sudden eradication of the hooligan problem.

Basically, my point is that this level of reaction may have had the suspect motivation (and if there had been trouble, we might well have been talking about the problem of the authorities treating the legitimate majority of fans in the same way hooligans) but, IMHO, if the hooligan gangs had made it over there many of these measures would have turned out to have been necessary.

Fortunately, the World Cup passed without any incidents of trouble. The mixing of Japanese supporters with those from other countries was perhaps the most memorable aspect of a pretty boring World Cup.
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