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Nations’ envoys in Group E of World Cup play table soccer

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Just before Japan faced Germany in the World Cup in Qatar, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi squared off against ambassadors representing countries in Group E, to which Japan belongs.

Their “pitch” was a table soccer match at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo, an organization involved in promoting German cultural exchange activities, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Nov. 23.

The event was called the “e-kickoff” in the hopes that it would be a good event. In Japanese, “good” sounds like the letter “e.”

About an hour before the kickoff in Qatar, Hayashi faced off against German Ambassador to Japan Clemens von Goetze. Germany won the table soccer match, 11-3. The ambassadors from Spain and Costa Rica also competed.

Table soccer is a game in which the players manipulate rods that have figures attached to them and pass and shoot the ball at the opponent’s goal.

The organization planned to hold a public viewing event after the World Cup group stage pairings were set, said Rei Watanabe, the Goethe-Institut Tokyo public relations official.

It was canceled, however, due to the current novel coronavirus situation where cases are on the rise. Instead, the organization planned the table soccer game, she said.

Germany won the game between the diplomats and was presented with a statue of Spike.

“People who like both Japan and Germany gathered here today,” Watanabe said before the match in Qatar. “I think everyone will be delighted no matter which country wins.”

Goetze said, “I hope we can watch many goals on the screens (where the match will be televised live).”

Diplomats and visitors watched the match on several giant screens with drinks in hand.

Germany took the lead with a penalty kick in the first half.

Japanese rapper Blumio, 37, who was born and raised in Germany, said, “Germany is strong individually, after all.”

“Japan can somehow correct this situation, though, and I expect Kaoru Mitoma will break through Germany’s defenses,” he said.

Japanese substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals to propel the Samurai Blue past Germany.

When the referee whistled to end the match, Lars Markert, 47, a lawyer from Germany, praised Japan: “Well done, Japan.”

“Germany lost so many chances to score,” he said. “I cheered for both teams today. We (Germany) got in a difficult situation in this World Cup.”

Goetze said after the match: “Japan played excellently in the second half. Very concentrated and powerful. I enjoyed watching the match with good friends in a good and peaceful atmosphere.”