YOKOHAMA, Japan, AFP
Japan’s largest stadium erupted with excitement after the Japanese squad won their first World Cup football match beating Russia 1-nil.
“It was absolutely amazing, the best day in my life, totally perfect,” screamed Hideo Ueda as he ran from the venue waving a huge national flag.
“Today was Russia, there is no stopping us now, we will go all the way,” the 18-year-old shouted.
Over 66,000 fans, the majority of them Japanese, packed into Yokohama International Stadium just outside Tokyo, creating a formidable forest of deep blue — the color of the national kit.
Frantic chanting and clapping built to a crescendo as the team pulled off a famous win.
“We have moved one step further,” Shunichiro Okana, president of the Japan Football Association told a news conference. “I hope the team will go on to make more history in the next game.”
J-league chairman Saburo Kawabuchi said massive support for the squad nationwide helped lead the team to victory.
A footbridge running from the stadium — which will also host the final game in this month-long tournament on June 30 — was taken over by hundreds of fans who had been unable to buy tickets for the game but had still come to shout support from outside.
“Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Japan, Japan!” they sang, bashing drums while a large group of policemen watched on in case of trouble.
Before the match, a small contingent of Russian fans defiantly blew horns and bashed drums despite being totally out-numbered by the thousands of colorful Japanese.
“I was sad for our team but Japan played well, you have to hand it to them,” said Serge Shljavkov, a 42-year-old customs officer.
But the Japanese were beside themselves with glory, roaring with excitement as they poured from the stadium.
Local newspapers were already churning out special editions proclaiming the victory.
“It was an amazing experience, look out finals here we come,” cried Hideo Narita, a 34 year-old doctor, hugging his two-year-old daughter who was kitted in a a mini-sized football shirt.
“It was nerve-wracking but we did it, this is great,” exclaimed Kazuhiko Kawai, a 35-year-old adverstising executive, sporting a team shirt.
“We should go through to the second round. No, actually we will go all the way.”