3 April 2012
Sometimes, circumstance conspires against you to ensure that your best laid plans go awry, no matter what you do, the outcome remains the same. Failure. This succinctly describes our attempt to watch an AFC Champions League game between a Uzbekistani team and Gamba Osaka, who were recently beaten by Adelaide United in a shock upset.
Fail #1: The weather
A strong storm cell emerged over the northern island of Hokkaido, which caused what was described by the local media as ‘typhoon-like conditions’, with seemingly little regard for its meteorological definition. Regardless, is was miserably cold, barely hitting 10°C, pouring intermittent rain, and my favourite, blowing the kind of gale that makes attempting to use an umbrella a pointless exercise.
Thankfully, the people of Osaka have realised their weather isn’t always particularly pleasant, and have built ridiculously elaborate and complex underground shopping centres strung together with more shops and more underground walkways stretching kilometres. It is entirely possible for many people to travel from home to work and home again via the shops without actually seeing natural light, or anything green.
Nevertheless, we were determined to get to the game, so we took the next step.
Fail #2: Finding a place to buy tickets
Motivated by the 500 yen ($6) per person discount for online ticket purchasing, we were keen to pre-purchase. Sure, we could have bought tickets using the internet available at our accommodation, but then the problem was printing it out.
The solution seemed simple, all we needed to do was find an internet café, and we were in Umeda, the business centre of Osaka. It couldn’t be simpler! Or so we thought.
We spent an hour, walking around the underground labyrinth, including a couple of hotels, for a computer with printing facilities with no success. Eventually we opted to search for an internet café using Google Maps on a local phone, but that also proved difficult, given they’re not actually called that in Japan.
For future reference, convenience stores (combini in the local parlance) often have printers available, and we believe internet cafés are called media centres if you are trying to search for one.
Fail #3: Buying the tickets
Of course, after finding a computer, and paying the 425 yen ($5) to use it for half an hour, I quickly discover that because we had left our run so late (2 hours before kick-off), online ticket purchases were no longer available.
Having resigned ourselves to paying the surcharge for buying at the gate, we printed out the access instructions for the stadium and continued on our way.
Fail #4: The subway is closed
Attempting to catch the Midosuji Line in peak hour, Osaka Municipal Subway’s busiest line, is never normally recommended, but we were men on a mission, and we had to do what we needed to, to make the game. What we encountered at Umeda subway station was pedestrian gridlock. And after making our way through the ticket gates and down to the platform we found out why.
An announcement is made over the PA, Michael listens, and relays the message to Sham and I; due to the adverse weather, the subway wasn’t travelling all the way to the end of the line, where we needed to go.
That’s alright, we thought, there are other options to get the stadium. So we headed to another line where we were able to get to the stadium by transferring to the monorail system at the terminus. Or so we thought.
Fail #5: The monorail is closed
So of course when we arrive at the monorail station, we discover the monorail is out of action for at least half an hour for reasons that couldn’t adequately be explained by the station staff.
I watched as my watch ticked past 7pm, kickoff time for the game. We would struggle to make it there by half time if we had to wait for the monorail to reopen, so intelligently we cut our losses, returned to Umeda, and sought an Irish pub to watch what was left of the game on TV.
Fail #6: The Irish pub
We immediately prop ourselves up on bar stools in front of the television, which was playing an Australia vs New Zealand rugby game from many years ago. Having politely asked the bar staff to switch to the Gamba Osaka game, which in theory would be popular in Osaka. She fumbles around through a few sports channels unsuccessfully, and returns to tell us that she cannot find the correct channel.
To add insult to injury, she leaves on the screen a local game of baseball, a game I know little about beyond what Wii Sports has taught, which is mainly just wrist control, and that comprehensively flogging someone early in the match invokes a mercy rule. We reluctantly watch.
So after roughly five hours of constant failure, we managed to watch zero gameplay of the soccer, in what could be a good contender for the biggest fail streak ever.