The reasons for this goes back to the change of management at Saitama stadium. The new management will let us use the facilities of the Stadium (training pitches, outdoor changing rooms, canteen) but will not let us use the stadium pitch for the final match. So without the attraction of a chance to play on a World Cup pitch, some of the teams have pulled out. And you when you consider that some of these teams will have to fly from their distant prefetures to Saitama, you can't blame them really. I'd be hard pushed to travel more than seven hours just for a footy tournament that could be held anywhere. So the tournament is off.
Now, it would be pointless to stamp our feet and demand that we are allowed to use the stadium pitch; it is their stadium and they can do what they like with it. But I can't help but be disappointed. The ALT Tournament has been held at Saitama stadium since it started. Over this time the tournament organisers have developed a long relationship with the Stadium and I'd have thought, with all the participants good conduct in the previous tournaments, that this relationship would a very good one. I wonder if the new management are aware of the previous tournaments and how successful they have been. I wonder what the reasons behind their decision were. I wonder if they realise how many heartbroken footballers are sitting around Japan with nothing to look forward to in January.
There might be some hope of postponing the tournament until the spring when an attractive venue can be found, so that something we can cling to. But I don't know if I'll feel again those proud feelings towards Saitama stadium when I see it on TV hosting the next Japan international or Uwara Reds match.