Two weeks ago, FC Gifu surrendered a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes to go against Roasso Kumamoto to lose 3-2 in what was probably the worst 15 minutes of football of the year. After the game the players, who were probably still in disbelief at what had transpired, went and did their usual bowing in front of the fans. Gifu have lost at home on (too) many occasions this year – but this was different. When they arrived at their first point of call they got a smattering of applause and a few “Ganbatte” calls (Ganbatte means – try your hardest in Japanese). But when they arrived in front of the core supporters, the Vamos Zone, the players were roundly, and very loudly, booed.

I was in the main stand, which is opposite the Vamos Zone, but I could hear it very clearly. The people around me expressed shock as it is very uncommon for this to happen. Gifu, in my time supporting the club, have been……well, pretty bad. But the understanding has usually been that the players try their best every game and if they lost it wasn’t much of a surprise. But as I said before, this was different. The team has lost many points at home this year from winning positions and I think the fans on the day had seen enough of it.

After the game, I got two diametrically opposed viewpoints from two senior people associated with the club (names that I won’t reveal).

Person A:

  • “I’m glad the fans booed the team. The players need to understand that supporters pay good money to watch them and that they will not be satisfied with performances like the one we saw today. Across the world, if a team loses a 2-0 lead at home, the supporters will boo. Why should Japan be any different? I think they need this kind of feedback, and if they had any understanding of football supporters, they would have expected it. If you accept the praise of the fans when you win, you should accept criticism when it is deserved.”

Person B:

  • “Of course I can understand the supporters’ feelings – I feel deflated too. But the fans have to realize that the we need the players onside with them. We as a club can’t, and don’t want to, move forward with a disconnect between the players & fans. There is so much positivity surrounding the club these days: the fund-raising, the high attendances, the star players, the increased publicity. But we need everyone pulling in the same direction. If you look how we’ve come just in the last year you can see that we are making progress. There will be difficult points along the road, but we need to face these difficulties as one, not divided. We can’t afford a situation where the players start to not care about the fans. This club has to be as one.”

To be honest, I can see both points of view. No-one likes to be booed, but in football it is the only feedback you are going to get from supporters. And as person A said, they will have (or should have) known it was coming. The selling point for FC Gifu, for me, has been the connection between the supporters & players. They openly mingle at training sessions and they players & staff are approachable wherever they may be. As person B says, we need that to continue for the club to move forward. Numerous times this year I’ve seen players in J1 teams openly “diss” their own fans after they weren’t happy with their “feedback”. I’d hate for that to happen at the Nagaragawa. I’d be interested in what other people think on this issue.

Ultimately, the only way to escape booing is not to let your performance warrant it – and that is what the focus should be.

Hopefully we don’t hear it tomorrow…..