You see, Japan now hosts many of the qualifying events for the Beijing Olympics. I got hooked to volleyball a few days ago, after witnessing just how exciting the women’s matches were (Japan’s loss to Serbia was a classic).
Well tonight, the men’s battle proved to be more intense (as it should be?). This was the game between Japan and Italy. I don’t know what the standings were, but with the stadium filled with Japanese supporters (even popular teen actors were reduced to being official cheerleaders), I was certain it was a very material game. And with the home court advantage by its side, it seemed like Japan was to take the match easily.
But not so! Japan bled hard, losing the first set (20-25) and bounced back taking the next two (30-28, 30-28). In all these, the score board seemed like a see-saw – with no team gaining more than a two or three point headway.
But momentum veered towards the side of Japan on the fourth set, when all it needed was a single point to win the match. Ahead 17-24, all it required was a single missed block, a wayward spike or a serving error from the Italians for them to win. The crowd was already on its feet, celebrating a victory just about to unfold. But the Italians rallied, tying the game at 24 and clawed back to win the set at 33-35.
On the fifth set, the Japanese found themselves dumbfounded by the Italians’ tenacity. The points piled earlier on, and alas, they failed to do the grand catching up displayed to them earlier on.
The Japanese lost 7-15.
It’s funny how the Japanese media handle the games. When their compatriots win, live TV coverage is extended, where each and every member of the team gets interviewed. That, in the middle of the court sometimes, with the spectators not leaving the stadium until the entire team gets introduced. Yup, the entire team! Even the benchwarmers will have their few seconds on-cam.
But when they lose, the cameras are turned off from the very minute the game ends. No goodbyes from the anchors, no recaps of the plays, no analysis of what happened. After the inevitable ads, the next program segues in.
Need I say they take a loss very badly? Go figure.