"Kicking" tells the story of what happened off the pitch during the 2002 World Cup: when, for an extraordinary moment in English footballing culture, the most feared and distrusted fans in the world became the most popular, most imitated and most adored people in Japan. While other commentators had their eyes on the pitch, David Willem was following the fans into the bars, restaurants, entertainment districts, and even the courthouses around the grounds in order to record this unique event. In "Kicking", he covers the whole story: from the uncertainty that characterised English-Japanese relations before and after the first game against Sweden, through the spontaneous all-night street party the Japanese laid on for the victory over Argentina, to the mutual admiration that had developed in time for England's qualification from the group stage and the defeat of Denmark. But "Kicking" is more than just an account of this cross-cultural love-in. It is also an introduction to Japanese culture, and an examination of the way in which the national identities of England and Japan express themselves through football. Above all, the book shows how thousands of acts of individual kindness by ordinary Japanese people, combined with intelligent policing and brilliant organization, produced a tournament where, for the first time, England fans felt truly welcome - and responded in kind. Forget what happened on the pitch, the real story of the 2002 World Cup was the love affair between England and Japan.
David Willem is a freelance writer and journalist. He lived and taught in Japan for several years and now lives in Lancashire.