Like thousands of people in Japan, for me the last month has been a period of waking up crazily early or going to bed crazily late. This was all so that I could watch as many World Cup Soccer games as I could.
But now the final game has been played and the tournament is over. I’m upset, I want more, and if you’re anything like me, maybe you do too! Thankfully, Japan’s soccer season is in full swing and that makes the country’s stadiums the perfect place to get your soccer fix, or the perfect place to try watching soccer for the first time!
Fukuoka’s soccer team is called the Fukuoka Avispa. Avispa are currently in the second division of the Japanese Soccer League and can be described as a good team, but maybe not a great team. Their standing doesn’t really matter though, because whilst Avispa are in the second division, there is really nothing second class about the experience of going to an Avispa game; it’s exciting, welcoming and fun!
It all begins hours before the game, when food and souvenir stall holders begin opening up outside the stadium. Fans start to turn up soon after. First they buy their prematch food; yakisoba and big frankfurters are my favourite. Next, they look at the navy blue and silver souvenirs; scarves, replica shirts and towels all in Avispa colors.
The atmosphere at the game is always friendly and this encourages groups and families to turn up and make the most of their afternoons, picnicing and relaxing together in the grounds that surround the stadium.
Then it’s time to head into the stadium. Avispa’s stadium is called Level 5 Stadium and it’s clean, spacious and modern. It holds up to 22000 people, but on average the attendance is around 6000 for Avispa games. The fact it’s rarely full doesn’t matter though because the fans that are inside make enough noise for twice as many people.
The diehard section’s fans constantly sing songs, bang drums and wave flags throughout the game, filling the stadium with sound, regardless of the score. This encourages the rest of the fans to get involved as well, singing along to songs and feeding off the energy of the diehard fans. It’s a collective experience, and because of the friendly atmosphere and the energy flowing around the stadium, you really feel part of the group as soon as the first chant begins!
There are hundreds of homemade banners with pictures of Avispa players or club mottos drawn on them, turning the stadium navy blue and silver. Some of these banners even reach down to the pitch itself, and it is down there that the action takes place.
Avispa’s players work as hard as the fans chanting in the stands, competing right up until the final whistle, playing attacking soccer and putting on a show. Eventually the final whistle blows and it’s time to head home, but not before the players come over and acknowledge the fans’ support, bowing and clapping in thanks.
Going to an Avispa game, or any Japanese soccer game in general, is a must do event! The friendly atmosphere, the food and all the other fans make it a unique and exciting afternoon that you really feel part of.
Like the Japanese national team, Fukuoka Avispa may have a little more to do if they want to be the best on the field. But off the field, they have already created a unique soccer experience that is fun and family friendly! Come and give it a try this season. There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Avispa Olé!
Level 5 Stadium
Higashihirao Park,2-1-2 Higashihiraokoen, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0852
Tickets can be bought on the Fukuoka Avispa website, in convenience stores and at the stadium itself on matchdays.
For details of when games are taking place, and general info about the team: