Japan may miss their lucky charm

July 5, 2007

Rommel walks on the pitch before a Japan training session in Bonn at the 2006 World cup. Kimimasa Mayama / Reuters

Japan’s defence of their Asian Cup title could be all but over before the tournament even begins this weekend, now that talismanic dachshund Rommel is no longer part of the team.

Japan went into last year’s World Cup unbeaten in 18 games where Rommel, or Ron for short, had been in attendance. That quickly went pear-shaped in Germany as Japan bowed out with barely a whimper and Ron retired immediately after.

A superstar in Japan, Ron’s presence in his trademark kids-size Japan shirt brought a sense of calm to the Japan side and former coach Zico would keep a photo of Ron tucked inside his pocket whenever the mutt was unable to travel to games.

Ron was unable to cover for the team’s short-comings at the World Cup. How will they do without him now, as they chase a third straight title?

Alastair Himmer, Tokyo

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