Scenes of despair and joy for Japan, Brazil fans in Singapore
This sport can stir a wide range of feelings and on Tuesday morning, that contrast of emotions was on full display in Singapore. The Japanese football fans felt the blues while the Brazilians danced on.
The sight and sounds in the corner of Duxton Hill resembled that of a bar in the middle of Japan. Inside craft beer bar SG Taps, close to 50 Japanese fans had packed inside hoping to witness history through four screens.
A win against Croatia would have meant the Samurai Blue reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
They called out “Nippon, Nippon” all night. And when Daizen Maeda gave Japan the lead just before half-time, there was pandemonium. Unfortunately, that was the high point as Croatia eventually equalised before winning on penalties.
When Mario Pasalic tucked away the decisive spot kick, the unbridled joy felt like a lifetime ago as people sank into their chairs and had their head in their hands.
Asupo Keizu, 38, works in the finance industry and was the life of the party hours earlier. Now he was almost in tears. He said it hurt to go so close only to fail at the final hurdle.
“This team has made us dream. But that dream is over. I am feeling emotional because I have enjoyed the last few weeks so much and tonight I thought we were going to do it. But I think all the Japanese fans are still so proud of the team. They are heroes.”
Japan’s efforts to reach the last eight in Qatar touched many of their citizens around the world as they willed their team along.
For every clearance captain Maya Yoshida and his defenders made, there was a piercing cry from the faithful here. Each time goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda had the ball in his arms, cheers of “Gonda!” erupted. The supporters have lived and breathed every moment of their team’s campaign.
Norihito Hirose, 49, owner of SG Taps bar, said the venue has been filled with his compatriots in every match so far. Together with his customers, he has seen the highs and shocks of beating Spain and Germany in the group stages to the dejection of losing to Costa Rica.
Hirose, who set up the bar in 2018, said: “I have been very busy these last few weeks because the bar is always full but I wish I can have this all over again. Japanese people are very, very proud of the team. Maybe it is funny but we cannot wait for the next World Cup again.”
“This has also been a good chance for me to see so many Japanese people together again. During the pandemic, you could not imagine something like this.”
As his customers sheepishly strolled out of the bar, a samba party was simmering at Chijmes’ El Mero Mero. Before kick-off, there were already about 30 people, mostly clad in yellow anticipating a fiesta. And they got one as Brazil swept aside South Korea 4-1.
With each goal scored, the Selecao players in Qatar broke out into a dance with even head coach Tite joining in. The Brazilian supporters, 6,000km away at Chijmes, also displayed their own mini jig to celebrate.
Engineer Augusto Silva, 32, wore a huge smile and said the performance sent a warning to the rest of the contenders. “This is the kind of football every Brazilian around the world has been waiting for. This is simply beautiful. I am so happy. But I think all the other teams are going to be very worried.”
Fellow Brazilian Caio Wakamatsu, 20, savoured the moment. He had been waiting for a “big win” since witnessing the 7-1 hammering Brazil received from Germany in 2014 on home soil.
He said: “I expected today’s result but I am still feeling very happy. The four goals especially were beautiful. People will say you cannot be overconfident but when the team is playing like that, you cannot be worried. Brazil is going to win the World Cup. Definitely.”