Matthew Calbraith Perry arrived at Uraga, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 1853 to break open the then-closed-to-foreigners Japan. His arrival eventually caused the Meiji Revolution that ended the samurai era.
More than one-and-a-half centuries later, the origin of American football meets the culture of samurai when the Ivy-Samurai Bowl takes place at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Sunday.
The game will be played to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Kanto Collegiate Football League. The Kanto collegiate players will combine with former Yale University and Harvard University players to compete in the game.
“We could have invited top U.S. colleges to the bowl game, just as the Kansai league does annually. But we instead opted to invite the teams from the Ivy League,” said Naohito Matsumoto, the general manager of the event. “We think it’s more significant to invite the colleges that originate football for the 70th year of Kanto football.”
The Yale University Bulldogs and the Harvard University Crimson played an 11-man football game in 1876 and this is believed to be the first organized American football game ever played.
The Bulldogs will team up with the Block A schools of the Kanto league Division I, while the Crimson will align with Block B schools. Some lower division players will also participate.
“We were impressed with the tremendous intensity, courage and athleticism of Japanese players playing American football, and the really outstanding quality of the Japanese coaches,” said Harvard head coach Tim Murphy, who visited Japan in 1997 to play an exhibition game with Kyoto University.
“It was a lot different from what we expected, because honestly we didn’t really know what to expect.”
Jack Siedlecki, head coach of the Bulldogs, said this will be the first time for him to see Japanese play football.
“The only thing I saw is the film of last year’s collegiate championship game,” Siedlecki said. “We have to communicate our offense and defense with Japanese teams already organized with their own players in only four or five days. It’s a challenge, but it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to working with talented players and coaches.”
Siedlecki brought defensive back Steve Ehikian, quarterback T.J. Hyland, running back Pat Bydume and offensive line Jake Kohl, all graduates and former Bulldogs, to Japan, as well as six assistant coaches.
Under NCAA rules, current active players are prohibited from playing in a game outside of the United States without permission.
Hyland set a school record by throwing 444 yards against Harvard in 2001, though he’s been out of school for the last two years.
Asked about his condition, Hyland laughed and pointed downward with his thumb meaning he’s got some rust.
The Crimson team features quarterback Neil Rose, who holds 18 club records in passing categories.
Kickoff is set for for 1 p.m.
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