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Kanagawa Classic: Yokohama F. Marinos vs. Shonan Bellmare

Thursday 19th April 2018

The people of Kanagawa are a lucky bunch. The big port city of Yokohama on their doorstep and the beachy surroundings of rural Shonan. They’ve even got Kawasaki who won the league last year, but that’s another story.

To get to the crux of this rivalry, I have to point out that the geography of Japan is extremely complex. They have regions, areas, prefectures, divisions, subdivisions, islands… it’s really quite intricate. For this, however, you need to know that Shonan and the club, Shonan Bellmare, are in the Sagami Bay. It’s known for its laid-back approach to life and large surfing community. If you ever want to visit Japan and see somewhere that doesn’t have businessmen pouring out of businessmen on loaded trains, try Sagami. It’s different.

Yokohama, however, is part of Musashi Province – the people are as hardworking as can be. It’s this difference that has fuelled a little bit of animosity between the prefecture folk. One side saying: “you work too hard” whilst the others probably blaming them as to why they have to work even harder. Of course, this is a historical comparison and few remnants are found in contemporary Kanagawa, but the ideology of the places is still folklore. Even if there are shopping centres on the beaches!

Hosting the occasion is the author’s side, Yokohama F. Marinos. We welcome Bellmare to the Nissan Stadium for not only a game of football but a lecture about sedulous employment. I jest, but the Marinos players will need to embody the hardworking nature of the city here – after all, a string of bad results have got them sitting in the relegation zone. Only Nagoya and Gamba sit behind, as we sit in the dreaded 16th position.

What is upsetting for supporters is the team's recent rancid results, especially considering the performances haven’t been so terrible. It seems like an eternity has passed since they last won, well only some 15 days – when they beat Albirex Niigata.

After which, they’ve lost to league leaders Hiroshima in a spirited performance where they held the lead at one point. A similar performance came from last week’s home encounter with Vissel Kobe, where they took the advantage with Boumale scoring his first goal for the club – yet still managed to lose the game 2-1. It’s been bad, but not woeful.

There were signs of progression in mid-week as the side travelled to the Ajinomoto for a cup group game against FC Tokyo. Going 2-0 wasn’t a great start but coming back to get something was exceptional.

Sho Ito must be on the cusp of the first team considering his performance on Wednesday night. The problem is displacing another forward isn’t so easy. Hugo Vieira is scoring goals despite the team not winning. Boumale has shown in recent weeks that he’s adapted and taken to the team with relative ease.

On the opposing side of the pitch is the… the Green and Blue of Kanagawa. Gosh, it pains me to even say it. Shonan Bellmare. As you can tell, I’m fully involved in Marinos now, it’s harder and harder to type about this team.

They’ll start the day *begrudgingly types* ahead of us. But only just. We’re 16th in the league, they are 15th. Equal on points, only goal difference separates the two teams – a single goal as well! Meaning that this derby will do a lot to decide the fate of the two teams as we enter into the second quarter of the season.

As you would expect, Shonan hasn’t been doing so well either. They last won back at the start of the month but have looked terrible since. They’ve played Sapporo and lost. They’ve played Hiroshima and lost. They played Sagan Tosu and drew. A single point out of a possible nine. What’s even more alarming is that they failed to score a single goal in the collective three matches.

Shunsuke Kikuchi was a key part of last year’s promotion campaign for the side, yet he’s not replicated the same type of class he had just a season ago. As a creative attacking midfielder, he needs to chip in and help the forwards score goals. Yet, it’s not just him – it seems nobody wants to contribute. At present the team has five joint-top goalscorers - wait for it - tied on one. Eight games into the season the team has collectively scored five.

The fixture’s history-pendulum favours Yokohama. They have only contested 10 derbies, with the Marinos winning eight. To give them a little confidence going into the game, the last meeting in 2016 at the BMW Stadium, they won 3-0.

However, the last time Shonan visited Yokohama FM’s ground, they came away as 1-0 winners. So, the psychological warfare works for both teams. There wasn’t a meeting in 2017 as Shonan were playing in J2 after being relegated the prior year.

There isn’t much to split the two teams. Shonan can’t score and Yokohama can’t defend a lead. Considering the league standings, expect an exciting encounter as both are fighting to get their heads out of relegation waters.

Logic would say Yokohama will break the deadlock and probably win given the team’s form. Yet, this is a derby. We expect so much in football and often still receive surprises.

The game kicks off Saturday, 16:00 JST from the Nissan Stadium.

Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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