October 20, 2011
The Sporting Life
I am not usually a soccer enthusiast, but I become one at World Cup time, and here in Japan there’s been a fair amount to cheer about over recent years, particularly with the women’s team winning the World Cup this year and the men reaching the Round of 16 in 2010.
My passion is baseball, which Japan offers in abundance, however, in this town it is the lowly Yokohama BayStars, who not only finish last nearly every year as an unaffiliated team, but are definitely in need of their own “Revival” plan.
Thus, I have turned to Nissan’s Yokohama F. Marinos, who after a seven-year spell have a slim chance this season to win a title. The team practices just down the road from Nissan’s headquarters, and President Akira Kaetsu recently stopped by the Media Center to give us an update on the team, stars such as ex-Celtic Shunsuke Nakamura, and Japan national team players Yuji Nakazawa and Yuzo Kurihara.
President Kaetsu was clearly enthused by the team’s stronger performance this year.
“Up until last year our performance was often 7th or 10th place, and this has been the case for six years in a row, so the players lost confidence and most of the players who had experienced a championship left, so we didn’t have confidence in the beginning,” Kaetsu said. “But, as we went through the season, we won games and that has created a virtuous cycle that restored confidence and the team is trying ensure we become champions.”
“To start with the amateur team that was the precursor to the Marinos, it was created 40 years ago, so we have the longest history in the soccer league, so those who like soccer think that Nissan is equivalent to the Marinos. However, non-soccer fans may know the Marinos, but they don’t know about the corporate ties. Therefore, this year as we fight for the championship, we have to show that Nissan is supporting the team. We have to increase exposure, so that is why this year we have a great opportunity,” he said.
Nissan Stadium, home of the Marinos, was built for the 2002 World Cup when it hosted a number of games, including the Brazil-Germany final. In a recent game versus the Hiroshima Sanfrecce, the blue-shirted Marinos crowd was loud and active throughout the game, even enduring a 1-1 final score, which a baseball fan cannot fathom.
Overall, though, Nissan and Infiniti have few direct sports ties, but have helped to sponsor teams this year winning Formula 1 and Super GT titles , an NHL hockey team, a professional cycling team, as well as hugely popular events in North America, such as the voting for the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
What sports do you follow and is Nissan or Infiniti a part of them? Let us know via Facebook.