Sayonara Football was recommended to me by Al of Al’s Manga Blog fame. Sorry that it took me two years to actually get around to it though. I am not usually one for reading sports manga, so I was initially hesitant to get started on it. When I did, however, Sayonara Football pulled me straight out of my comfort zone.
Nozomi Onda is 14-years-old and has been playing football since she was just a little kid. The boys at her local park considered her their boss, but adolescence has brought on a lot of change. The boys grew up, they grew strong, and hobbies turned into passions. Onda grew too of course, but she is now small and tender compared to her lifelong friends.
Her school does not have a women’s team for football, so Onda has been reduced to being an assistant for the male team. She is incredibly skilled and tactical, yet her coach staunchly refuses to let her play in any real match. No matter how many team-members she outplays, no matter how much she trains, coach always cites that she is physically incapable of playing against boys. Onda, of course, completely rejects this explanation.
Onda has one wish: she wants to play one last match with her old friends. An official match. As a final send-off to their years together, before even her little brother grows taller than her. As it so happens, the match she has set her sights on will pit her team against that of a former friend turned rival. What a suitably climactic finale, if only Ando could convince coach to let her play.
Sayonara Football was a fun read. It captures the burning passion of sports and has a good sense of comradery to it. Onda is an endearing protagonist and frequent flashbacks to her childhood help to convey the deep roots of her friendships and rivalries. An impressive feat for a 2-volume manga with only 8 chapters.
The action shots during matches look intense as well. It presents football as rough and very physical. Athletes blocking and shoving past each other, the occasional tackle or painful collision. Meanwhile the teenage players are drenched in sweat; staring at each other as if they’re about to storm the trenches of Verdun. The final match takes up a big chunk of the final chapters and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Sayonara Football is a gripping and accessible story, even if you usually don’t care for football. I am not sure how it would hold up to actual fans of sports manga, but I can confidently recommend it to my fellow laymen.