Japantown group sports Absolute Addiction to Cup

The alarm clock showed the cruel and unusual time of 3:30 a.m. when Shiho Kadota got out of bed Sunday morning.

And all she could blame was herself and her addiction.

Kadota is a USF sports management volunteer and one of the organizers for Absolute Addiction, a group showing a number of the World Cup soccer games in the Kinokuniya Building in Japantown. And a few hours after rising, she was joined by more than 200 fans of the Japanese soccer team for its 6 a.m. World Cup game against Croatia.

“It’s called Absolute Addiction because it’s like an addiction to the World Cup, to international sporting events,” Kadota said. “And waking up was hard, of course. Very hard. But it was great to see so many people here.”

Despite the early kickoff, there was a lot of enthusiasm and very few yawns among the faithful gathered on the second floor of this mall. Two big screen TVs were set up in the corner, and people in Japan jerseys and scarves found room on benches, planters and the floor to watch the Japanese-language broadcast of the match.

Most members of the crowd appeared to be in their late teens and early 20s, although a noticeable number of older fans were there as well. This mixing of the generations was one of the goals of Absolute Addiction, as the organization sees the World Cup as a way to bring the Japanese community together.

“That’s important because Japantown is definitely changing,” said Koji Shirai, another organizer. “This brings people together and brings their attention to what’s going on here.”

The game itself ended in a 0-0 draw, although both teams had chances to score.

The biggest reaction from the Absolute Addiction crowd came midway through the first half, when Japanese goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made a great save on a penalty shot.

Japan’s odds seem long to make it to the second round, as it must defeat powerful Brazil to move forward, although those in attendance expressed optimism.

“It will be hard, but I still hope we can advance,” said Yuhei, who woke up at 4:30 a.m. and came over from the Sunset District. “I’m disappointed because we had so many chances, but it was great to watch here with all these people.”

melliser@examiner.com

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