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06.08.2007 11:27

Japan, a familiar place

David Saura

Barça are back in Japan, a country the side has visited five times since 2004. And the players will be made to feel at home in the foreign country with the most club members.

After a journey of three and a half hours and 3,000 kilometres, the Barça expedition has left China behind them and is now in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. Large groups of supporters turned out to see them off from China and again to welcome them to the land of the rising sun, where some of the fans chanted the names of some of the players. The team will be based in the second largest city in the country, Yokohama, which has a population of 3.5 million.

The city lives and breathes football, and was the venue for the 2002 World Cup Final. Barça will be there for two days, the shortest stay of the tour, and will then spend three days in Hong Kong.

WEB_04.jpgFrank Rijkaard’s side has just one game in Japan, against Yokohama Marinos, a side that was created several years ago following a merger with Flugels. This will be the third meeting between the teams in recent years, and will be played at the Yokohama International Stadium, also known as the Nissan Stadium, where Ronaldinho and Belletti were in the Brazil side that became world champions for a record fifth time.

Bad memories

WEB_02.jpgBut Barça’s last appearance at the stadium was not one they would like to remember, for it was the day they lost the Clubs World Cup Final to Internacional of Porto Alegre (1-0). The tearful Leo Miyagata became one of the most enduring images of Barça’s unsuccessful trip to Japan, and the young fan was there to welcome the players at Narita Airport. Although this is just a friendly, it is also a great chance to put a smile back on the faces of Barça’s many Japanese supporters.
Japan, a familiar place
Few institutional activities
The trip to Japan will be very similar to a typical Champions League away trip, in that it will last two days, with one training session before the match. Barça will be in Japan for less than 48 hours, so there will not be much time for institutional activities. The Catalan Tourist Board will be taking the chance to make a presentation to local travel agents and some of the players will be meeting young fans that were affected by the recent earthquake, but otherwise, the focus will almost entirely be on the football side of things.

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