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Looking for Honda

Looking for Honda

by Sean O'Toole / 21.06.2010

“Do you know Honda?” asks the chubby man holding the microphone.
“Yes,” responds a demure shop assistant inside Spice World, a fragrant little nook in Chatsworth’s main shopping centre, southwest of Durban.
“Oh leally?” responds Nishi-san.
After a pause, the shop assistant mumbles: “You mean the car?”
“No,” laughs Nishi-san in his usual nervous way. “Keisuke Honda,” he says, meaning Japan’s 24-year-old star midfielder, member of the CSKA Moscow team and arrow through the heart of Cameroon.
Uh-uh, the shop assistant indicates with a slow swivel of his head. Ditto Spice World’s boss, 60-year-old Cassim Alli Mohamed Osman, or “Uncle Cas” as everyone calls him. Never heard of him.

A few shops down from Spice World, in a clothing store selling cheap World Cup knock-offs, it’s the same story. Yes, we know Japan. No, we don’t know any player names.

Chino-san, a man with thick wiry bristles on his chin and upper lip, laughs wearily when we return to our van. This is harder than he or Nishi-san, two seasoned hard news reporters from TV Asahi’s Bangkok bureau, expected. Finding a Japan fan in Durban.

At the new airport, they intermittently filter through the arrival’s hall in anticipation of their game against Holland, a game that has Tokyo hacks inhaling through their teeth. One fan wears a makarapa, his hair dyed red; another arrives camouflaged in a jacket sporting an Italia logo.
This sort of dislocation, of living here but supporting somewhere else, is replayed at FIFA’s official Fan Fest. On Wednesday night, as Nishi and Chino-san scanned the huge crowd turned out to watch Spain versus Switzerland for Japanese supporters, tall Indian boys from Phoenix wearing Fernando Torres T-shirts oooooohed in disgust as Xabi Alonso’s shot hit the crossbar.

Nishi spots a couple. No, they are not Japanese the woman says.
All the while groups of Umlazi and KwaMashu youth are sending it like they were all Bird and Miles, vuvuzelas baaaaaaaaaahing and vuuuuuuuuuuing. The mood jubilant, unrestrained, carefree – free, unconcerned with what will come later. 3-0.
Following their brief to the letter, Nishi and Chino-san dive into a thicket of bodies. A Bafana supporter in a customised worker’s uniform pumps hot air into a coiled vuvuzela. No, he says afterwards, he is not a Japan fan.
Chino-san’s camera, though, is like a magnet. Boisterous Algeria supporters proudly display their national flag, fans of Cesc Fàbregas poke their heads and hands into the frame. Two Dutch supporters chuckle in puzzled amusement when asked if they are fans of Japan. No, of course not.

“Do you know Japan?” Nishi-san asks a potbellied girl busting out of her Bafana kit.
“YES!” she screams.
“Do you know Honda?” he responds with the indefatigable determination of a seasoned news anchor.
“YES! Vuuuuuuuuuu!”
“Oh leally?”

Image © Sean O’Toole.

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  1. Jade Scully says:

    So, there are no Japan fans in Durban? You didn’t find any anywhere? I think you should look for them in Cape Town!!!!


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  2. Andy says:

    They spent days doing exactly that… And I think they were looking for local Japanese fans, not travelling ones

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  3. original process says:

    haha nice

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  4. Hoarse says:

    whale killers….they have no fans

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  5. Chrisco says:

    Heh… The young bride and I were at the Netherlands vs. Japan game last Saturday and saw plenty Japanese fans.. only from Japan though.. great fans, really enthusiatic in their blue, painted faces and all. No comparison to the numbers for the Dutch though, orange everywhere.

    WE were Japan supporters, for the day at least, and second only to Ghana. We had our small Japan flag and caps and scrounged colours. Perhaps a bit of a lame and lonely task as a pair of white South Africans, but we figured the Hollanders had enough support, and I’ve always liked the Japanese (and snatches of J-league), even though I’d be lying if I said I knew the players’ names.

    I’ve never had this weird affiliation to the next European team that some SA fans have – but it’s still pretty difficult to find something affordable to wear as a casual Japan supporter: supporter gear in local shops seemed to be limited to their football jersey (if at all), which at R 600 to R700 a pop would require me to be actually be dedicated… like seriously.

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  6. Hoarse says:

    “Japanese people should stop eating whales and try fruit instead”, East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta has suggested.
    Dr Ramos-Horta has backed Australia’s opposition to whaling at a crucial International Whaling Commission (IWC) summit under way in Morocco.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    After last night’s dismantling of Denmark… everyone knows HONDA now!!

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