500 Japanese football fans wave Troussier off to France


TOKYO, AFP

More than 500 Japanese football fans gathered Sunday to wave off Philippe Troussier, the French coach who piloted their national side into the World Cup to 16 for the first time, an airport official said.

“Thank you, Troussier!” the crowd shouted as Troussier boarded a flight to France at Japan’s Narita international airport. A female fan gave him a bouquet of red flowers and most of the men in the crowd wore the Japanese team’s blue uniform and chanted his name.

Troussier, 47, took the Japan job after their winless World Cup finals debut in 1998. His contract with Japan expired when the World Cup finals co-hosted by Japan and South Korean ended on June 30. Before coming to Japan, he spent nearly a decade in Africa coaching clubs and national sides in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkino Faso, Morocco and South Africa, earning the nickname, the “white witchdoctor.”

He is currently on the shortlist of four candidates for the job of French national team manager. Meanwhile, Japan’s football J-League matches resumed Saturday three months after a halt due to the World Cup finals and 57,902 fans enjoyed the game between Urawa Red Diamonds and Jubilo Iwata at the stadium in Saitama, northwest of Tokyo.

A stadium official said Saturday’s J-League match drew more crowds than the Japan-Belgium game in Saitama during the World Cup that attracted 55,256 people.

“Japan’s soccer fever is not gone with the end of the World Cup,” the stadium official said.