Japan National Team routs USFJ-AFL's Yokota Raiders, 90-12
Stars and Stripes June 24, 2003
KAWASAKI, Japan — Japan’s corporate football establishment continued to feast on its American military opposition Sunday.
This time, it was the Japan National Team, headed to next month’s World Cup of American Football in Germany. It tuned up for that journey by pounding the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League bottom-feeding Yokota Raiders 90-12 at Kawasaki Stadium. Yokota is 0-4 on the season.
It marked the fifth time since May 1999 that a USFJ-AFL team got battered by a squad composed of players from Japan’s semi-pro X-League. The combined margin of victory for Japan: 321-30.
Not an unexpected result, in the eyes of Raiders coach Chuck Wichert, who played fullback on the team that fell 35-0 two years ago to the X-League’s Asahi Silver Star.
“I’ve been there before as a player,” he said. “I knew what the outcome would be.”
So why continue the lopsided encounters?
USFJ-AFL Commissioner Joe Howell, present at Sunday’s debacle, pointed to the long-standing rivalry between the two nations. Football was introduced to the Japanese in 1934 primarily by Paul Rush, a missionary living in Japan, and teams of American GIs have played football against Japanese clubs liberally since the post-World War II occupation.
“That’s the reason we took this game,” Howell said, adding, however, that he knew going in what the Raiders were up against. “Of course, this is Japan’s national team. We were outclassed.”
“They’re good,” said Yokota wide receiver Henry Freeman, who scored on touchdown catches of 25 and 8 yards.
“Their technique is excellent. They ran everything with accuracy. They were blasting our linemen four or five yards off the line. Their quarterbacks are very good and their wide receivers caught everything. Good football. Back to basics.”
While saying Japanese and GI football teams should continue playing one another, Howell said the league would like to see some changes. Sending the top players from the seven USFJ-AFL teams to one site, practicing for a week and then hosting a Japanese club is one alternative, he said.
“If we put our best players on our home fields with our referees, it would be a lot different,” Howell said.
For their part, the Japanese, who outgained Yokota 528-174 and raced to a 65-6 halftime lead, said they were grateful for the opportunity to prepare for next month’s World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany.
“They taught us a lot. This is very good preparation for us,” Japanese national coach Toshiaki Abe said.