Japan, a home from home for Brazil's Sao Paulo
There is a very strong bond between Japan and Brazil. Millions of Japanese and descendants of Japanese currently live in Brazil, particularly in the state of Sao Paulo, while approximately 270,000 Brazilians reside in Japan. The "dekasséguis", as the immigrants are called, are in most cases descendants of Japanese who have returned to the land of their forefathers to work.
If this is not enough to explain the ties of friendship that unite the two countries, then the admiration felt by the Japanese for Brazilian football shuts the case.
The current coach of the Japan national side is none other than former Brazil star Zico, who has made a major contribution to professional football in the Asian country. Having played a part in establishing Sumimoto, who now go by the name of Kashima Antlers, the legendary playmaker went on to play 88 games for the club. His retirement was marked by an emotional party organised by the fans who to this day regard him as Japan's greatest sporting idol. In 2002, following the FIFA World Cup™ in Asia, Zico agreed to take over the reins of the national side.
At France 98, Japan, debuting in the competition, included naturalised citizens Rui Ramos and Wagner Lopes, Four years later, Alessandro Santos, otherwise known as Alex, took Japanese citizenship before Korea/Japan 2002.
Sao Paulo have played their part in this "love affair" through their 1992 and 1993 Toyota Cup successes when, with Tele Santana at the helm, they won over countless fans via their carefree yet purposeful brand of football.
"Many children who were 12 or 13 years old at the time are now parents, and remain fans of Brazilian Football. They will be supporting us," declared Sao Paulo goalkeeper and captain Rogerio Ceni.
Unsurprisingly then, Sao Paulo are quietly confident. The Brazilians are convinced that when the action gets under way, the majority of fans in Japan will be behind them. Their coach Paulo Autori has even thanked supporters for their affection in advance: "Supporters play an important role in any big game and we are pleased to be able to count on them so far away from home."