Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

Nadeshiko Japan obviously doesn’t do it for the money

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The victory of the Japanese women’s soccer team at the FIFA World Cup tournament in Germany smashed a lot of preconceptions, most of them having to do with Japan’s international sports profile. However, a more specific truism bit the dust Sunday afternoon in Frankfurt when Japan came out on top, and that’s the notion that the more money you spend on a sport, the better your chances. About 1.5 million girls and women play soccer in America in some sort of organized fashion. There’s a popular professional league. Women’s soccer is a huge business. In Japan, about 45,000 girls and women play soccer. The women’s semi-pro and pro leagues are barely solvent, and there are no organized teams in Japan for elementary school girls. In fact, one of the more interesting factoids to come out of the news about the victory is that many of the members of the Japan national team started playing soccer as children on boys teams.

As pointed out in an article in the tabloid Nikkan Gendai published before the championship victory, Nadeshiko Japan was winning in spite of their meager remuneration. Very few of the members have pro contracts. Two members, Aya Samejima and Karina Maruyama, earned the most at one time playing soccer, about ¥5 million a year each, but that’s because they originally played for the Tokyo Electric Power Co. team — in Fukushima, as a matter of fact — and were thus company employees. After the disaster of March 11, Tepco’s soccer team activities were suspended, but by that point Maruyama has already left. She went to the U.S. and played for while but ended up returning to play for JEF Chiba. Gendai says her salary there is “very small.” Samejima stayed with Tepco until March and then moved to the USA, where her salary was better, the equivalent of about ¥300,000 a month. Team captain Homare Sawa earned about ¥3.6 million a year playing for the Nihon TV team, which among women soccer players is considered “good.” NTV dissolved its team not long ago, and Sawa now “makes less” playing for a team in Kobe.

Continue reading about Nadeshiko Japan →

Soccer lottery BIG in Japan

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

BIG Lotto

Step right up!

Sports tabloids are all gaga over the latest offering of the soccer lottery known as BIG. Thanks to a record carryover of ¥2.5 billion from last year’s BIG lotteries, top prizes for the next round will be ¥600 million, which, if history is any indication, should result on a huge rush on BIG lottery tickets. In the annals of the game there has been a total of 118 first prize winners, 80 of which won ¥600 million each. In 2007, the first time such a huge jackpot was offered, the system broke down because demand was too high.

It’s also a huge turnaround for the somewhat euphemistically named National Agency for Advancement of Sports and Health, which runs the various soccer-related lotteries under the “toto” banner. When it was launched back in 2001, toto was closer to a betting game than a lottery. Players choose which J.League teams will win in certain sets of games, and a player wins the jackpot (¥200 million maxiumum) if he or she chooses correctly on all the games listed. For whatever reason the system never really took off and lost money in the beginning.

In 2006 the agency started BIG, which removed all the brain work: a computer “guesses” the winners at random. This totally serendipitous version of toto became extremely popular, probably because the odds of actually winning a top prize (1 in 4.8 million) were greater than those for winning the standard Takarakuji lottery (1 in 10 million).

And the odds for this round of BIG are even better — 1 in 2.9 million. Tickets, each of which costs ¥300, started going on sale Feb. 18 and will continue until March 6, which is the first day of the new J.League season. Over the years, some commentators have complained about the soccer lotteries, saying that it sets a bad example, especially for children, to raise money for various national sports endeavors (including the Olympics) through gambling. But, in a way, BIG isn’t gambling; or, at least, it isn’t gambling the way toto is. Whether it’s a waste of money probably depends on if you win.

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