Albirex Niigata (S) – The view from the fans
She remembers it like it was yesterday; Albirex Niigata needed just one more goal to progress to the final of the 2011 Singapore Cup. Standing in their way were Hougang, with an enthralling match locked at 2-2 in the second half of extra-time.
Then up steps Yosuke Saito, whose goal in the 117th minute provides a lasting memory of Albirex fan of five years Yuu, who only wants to be known by her Japanese name for this story.
“Until now, I remember the same exact moment. It is matches like that which make you fall in love with the club even more. It was such a kan cheong (high-strung) match and when Saito scored, I just jumped and screamed.” said the 25-year-old Singaporean.
Albirex would go on to lose the final to Home United 1-0, but the previous tie was more than enough to ignite Yuu’s passion for the club.
Yuu first got into football only in 2010 when her friend persuaded her to watching that year’s World Cup. Inadvertently, she fell in love with the Japanese team and was attracted by the way it played its football.
“After the World Cup, it was a natural choice for me to follow Albirex since they play attractive football like the Japanese team too,” she said.
Devoted is perhaps an appropriate word to describe Yuu, who is able to read and write in Japanese. Apart from the away matches against Brunei DPMM, she attended every Albirex game as the club enjoyed its most successful campaign since its inception in 2004.
Also, she was the only Albirex fan present during their training match last month against Young Lions, travelling from her home in Sembawang to Clementi Stadium.
For the upcoming season, she will be doing the same in hopes that Albirex will finally win the coveted S-League trophy that has been elusive, to say the least, for the Japanese based club in Singapore.
“Almost every year, the team changes – a reason perhaps why we haven’t won the league trophy,” Yuu opines.
“This year, it really depends and I still need to get to know the players, that’s why I am at the training match. We have to improve on how strong we finish. Last season, we finished poorly.”
One signing that definitely has made Yuu look forward to the upcoming season is the return of her favourite player since 2011, Tatsuro Inui, who she claims has softened the blow caused by the departures of Fumiya Kogure and Itsuki Yamada.
“Yamada the left-back will be a loss for us and I am looking forward to facing Fumiya, who will be a good competition against us,” she said.
“My favourite player? He is over there,” added a blushing Yuu while pointing to Inui, who was warming down.
“Hopefully this season Inui and (Atsushi) Kawata can step up and perform. They can be our key players this season.”
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Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo