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Stadiums as places of memories

Masayuki Ishii
Associate Professor of Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

It is common for museums to be established in the stadiums of famous soccer clubs in Europe and South America. However, almost no stadiums in Japan have museums. Why is this?

To begin with, trophies and cups are displayed in these museums. Numerous pieces of glory won by the club sparkle brightly within the showcase. However, such a display alone wouldn't constitute a museum; rather, it would simply be a trophy display room. These museums are made by exhibiting the varied history of the soccer club. This doesn't mean that the record of the team is simply displayed in chronological order. Instead, history is recalled through a variety of stories spanning from the day of the club's founding until the present. The stories are exhibited together with the faces of past players and images of fans. These are displayed together like a single epic poem.

Museum of the Fenerbahce Sports Club in Turkey (Istanbul)

There are almost no such facilities in soccer stadiums in Japan. One reason is that the majority of stadiums are owned by the national government or municipalities. The home stadiums of soccer teams are actually public facilities, and it is therefore difficult for clubs to make changes. Clubs are not able to paint the walls with team colors, to erect statues of contributors at the main entrance, or to cover walls with plates that are engraved with the names of past players. Even more, it is unlikely that would be given for permanent installation of a specific club's museum.

It also seems that the climate is another reason that museums can't be established in Japanese stadiums. Overseas, club-related facilities are often created in the void located below spectator seating. Seating is designed in a diagonal staircase pattern, so a cavity in the shape of a right-angled triangle is created beneath (behind) the seats. In Japanese stadiums, this area is normally left open and has stairs and aisles. In contrast, the majority of soccer stadiums throughout the world are buildings that are enclosed by walls which run all around the perimeter. The interior space of such stadiums is used in a variety of ways. The triangular cavity is divided into 3 or 4 floors. Rooms located higher up in the triangle have less space and are therefore used as offices or meeting rooms. Conversely, rooms located on the first floor are quite spacious. Clubs take advantage of this space by establishing museums.

One of my acquaintances is an architect who has been involved in the construction of stadiums. According to him, it is difficult to build enclosed stadiums in Japan because of the humidity. Ventilation becomes extremely bad when encircling the periphery with exterior walls. In Japan, the field's grass will wilt unless stadiums are built in order to allow airflow from outside to inside.

However, there may actually be an even more fundamental reason why there are no club museums in Japanese stadiums. Put strongly, this reason is a difference in the ideal associated with soccer (and sports in general). For example, this difference is also apparent on the homepage of soccer clubs.

Take a look at the official website of each club in the Premier League (England). Almost all clubs have a "History" page on their website. Similar to the previously described museum exhibitions, the page introduces various past experiences of the club, both on-field and off-field. Conversely, such a page is virtually non-existent on the websites of each J-League club. Even if such a page exists, the history displayed is equivalent to the team's record. Information displayed is limited to a chronology of the team's J-League ranking, their victories in a certain tournament, and individual awards won by players (this was brought to my attention by a seminar student's graduate thesis that compared and researched stadiums in Japan and England). Compared to museums, a homepage doesn't cost much money and issues such as ownership or climate are not involved. Apparently, it seems that there is simply some difference in values.

Let's return to discussing stadiums. When visiting stadiums in Europe and South America, you can feel a certain aura that differs from that of Japan. As directly expressed by the presence of museums, these stadiums exist as a place of memories for both the club and its supporters.

Wall of a supporter's caf辿 in the stadium of the Leicester City soccer team where former Urawa Reds player Yuki Abe now plays. This wall is also engraved with many memories.

Sometimes, this is better expressed less by the glory achieved by the club and more by sad and heart-wrenching events. One example is the Old Trafford Stadium of Manchester United. Visitors to this stadium's museum can learn about the tragic 1958 airplane accident in which the club lost large numbers of its top players and officials. Visitors can learn about the miraculous recovery after the accident. The best section of spectator seating has seatbacks which are affixed with plates that are engraved with the names of past heroes who supported the club. Anfield Stadium, the home field of Liverpool, contains a memorial to supporters who died in an accident at the stadium in 1989. Even now, flowers are offered and candles are lit at the memorial every day. The stadium's museum also gives a detailed account of events surrounding the accident. Echoing over this accumulation of memories is the voice of supporters singing the pre-game chorus of "You will never walk alone." This is the reason that a huge block of concrete can possess the aura of a living thing. In Europe and South America, stadiums are more than just places to watch a game. Instead, they quietly receive, mature and ferment memories of the people who gather at the stadium. This includes both happiness and sadness.

Japanese stadiums are devoid of this kind of ideal. Perhaps that is why the majority of Japanese stadiums have an aura that is stiff and inorganic. Would it be too farfetched to say that the lack of museums is one sign of this deficiency? Recently, the language used to discuss sports has begun to overflow with more scientific and business-related vocabulary. It is true that this same trend can be observed throughout the world. However, I still feel that stadiums throughout the world are more poetic environments.

In Japan, a rapid succession of events is occurring both on and off the field. Victory and defeat, happiness and sadness-let's incorporate all of these memories into our stadiums.

Masayuki Ishii
Associate Professor of Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from the Waseda University School of Education with a major in physical education. Completed a course in European cultural and regional environmental theory at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. Assumed his current position after serving as Instructor at Hiroshima Prefectural University. Area of expertise is sports history. His major writings include "English Social History as Seen through Rugby", published in Quarterly Ethnic Studies Magazine (edited by the National Museum of Ethnology), and "Orientalism of the Field" published in Sports Magazine (Minerva Publishing).