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Captain Tsubasa creator targets real-life football glory

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Captain Tsubasa creator targets real-life football glory

Japanese cartoon hero Captain Tsubasa inspired Lionel Messi and countless other football stars worldwide. Now its creator is laying down his pen and aiming for the top with his own real-life team.

Yoichi Takahashi began writing the comic strip about 11-year-old football prodigy Tsubasa Ozora in 1981 and saw it grow into a global smash hit spawning animated films, video games and even statues in his hometown in eastern Tokyo.

Known as “Holly e Benji” in Italy and “Super Campeones” in Spanish-speaking Latin America, the franchise was avidly read and watched by players such as Messi and Andres Iniesta on their way to superstar status.

Now Takahashi is preparing to wrap up the comic series and focus on a different passion — attempting to lead his local non-league side into Japan’s professional J-League in his role as owner.

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The club were renamed Nankatsu SC — after Captain Tsubasa’s fictional school team — when Takahashi came on board.

“I can do something new from here,” the 62-year-old told AFP at his Tokyo studio, adorned with signed football shirts given to him by famous fans such as Iniesta and his former Spain team-mate Fernando Torres.

“It doesn’t mean that I’m completely stopping all creative work. I’d like to start something new in my own way while I still have the energy.”

Takahashi became hooked on football after watching the 1978 World Cup on TV.

He created Captain Tsubasa with the intention of helping to popularise the sport in Japan, which did not have a professional league at the time.

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Now, more than 100 countries are believed to have tuned into the series and the stories have sold more than 70 million copies in book form in Japan and more than 10 million overseas.

“I had no idea that people around the world would see it,” he said.

Captain Tsubasa Stadium?

Takahashi says the upcoming series of the comic will likely be the last he draws, although the beloved character will live on in other formats.

He says he is looking forward to being free of weekly deadlines and has “no bad feelings” about stopping.

Takahashi became involved with his local club 10 years ago and took over as owner in 2019, helping them rise to the fifth tier of the Japanese football pyramid.

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Nankatsu are now just two promotions away from reaching J3, the third rung of the J-League.

Takahashi believes they can go all the way to the top flight but he says the essence of the club is more important than league position.

“In Europe it’s just natural that you support your local club, but we didn’t have that culture in Japan,” he said.

“I didn’t have a local club so I wanted to create one myself.”

The J-League will kick off its 30th anniversary season later this month, and it has grown from 10 clubs in 1993 to 60 across three divisions.

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Nankatsu’s local government last month announced that it would buy land to build the club a new stadium, which they would need to gain J-League membership.

Takahashi says it could be named “Captain Tsubasa Stadium” and there are plans to include a museum of character memorabilia to attract tourists from all over the world.

The club have even recruited big-name players to help their promotion push, signing former Japan internationals Junichi Inamoto and Yasuyuki Konno.

Messi magic
Takahashi says being a club owner is “sometimes fun, but more often it’s difficult”.

“With a comic, you can shut yourself away in a room and draw it as you see it, but when you’re an owner, you have to meet a lot of people and come up with plans.”

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He has played a big part in helping football culture take root in Japan, and believes there is room for it to grow further.

He thinks Japan can win the World Cup in his lifetime and he sees similarities between young national team forward Takefusa Kubo and Captain Tsubasa.

Takahashi was in Qatar to watch last year’s World Cup final, and was happy to see Messi finally lift the trophy after years of trying.

But he says Captain Tsubasa’s ability to inspire is something that “doesn’t just go for superstar players”.

“Comics are something that, at heart, are for kids,” he said.

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“If a comic can have a positive impact on kids at that stage of their lives, then that makes me very happy.”

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Bella Hadid’s sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

Bella Hadid’s sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

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Bella Hadid's sister lunches Palestinian film company to expose Israel

American supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid’s sister, fashion designer and film producer Alana Hadid, has introduced a film production company to expose Israeli atrocities against Palestine to the world.

According to international media, Alana Hadid has incorporated her production company’s logo, which resembles a watermelon, with the flag of Palestine. Not only this, but she has also named her company ‘Watermelon Pictures.’

The report stated that under her production company, Alana Hadid will produce a documentary film based on the history of Israeli occupation and atrocities in Palestine, titled “Walled Off,” which will be released soon.

Teaser posts have been made on the official Instagram handle of Watermelon Pictures, showing the history of atrocities in Palestine and also showing how Israel has seized the lands of innocent Palestinians.

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A promo released by the production company revealed that now our production company will remain present in the field to expose Palestine’s case to the world.

We will present the story of Palestine with facts in our own style on every platform, the post said.

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‘Godzilla x Kong’ dominates North American box office for a second week

‘Godzilla x Kong’ dominates North American box office for a second week

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'Godzilla x Kong' dominates North American box office for a second week

Godzilla x Kong” extended its monstrous reign over the North American box office for a second weekend, according to estimates Sunday from industry watcher Exhibitor Relations.

The feature, which sees the enormous gorilla and reptilian giant set their differences aside and team up to save their species — and ours — took in $31.7 million over the weekend in the United States and Canada, according to the figures.

In second place with an estimated $10 million in ticket sales was action film “Monkey Man,” which British actor Dev Patel both directs and stars in.

The thriller, set in India, is “ultra-violent, driven by class differences, corruption and personal vengeance,” said analyst David A. Gross.

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“Foreign stories do not always work in North America; it’s working here,” he wrote, adding: “it’s going to be very profitable.” In third place was “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” which took in $9 million.

Co-written by Jason Reitman, whose father Ivan Reitman directed the first “Ghostbusters” in 1984, the film teams a new cadre of ghost catchers with the original cast as they take on a frightening deity trying to launch a new Ice Age.

In fourth place was the horror film “The First Omen,” an intrigue between the Catholic Church and the forces of evil. It grossed $8.4 million in North American cinemas.

Relegated to fifth place, “Kung Fu Panda 4,” Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s martial arts comedy, which earned $7.9 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

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“Dune: Part Two” ($7.2 million)

“Someone like you” ($3 million)

“Wicked Little Letters” ($1.6 million)

“Arthur the King” ($1.5 million)

“Immaculate” ($1.4 million) 

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In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood’s music legacy

In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood’s music legacy

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In Nashville, preserving a Black neighborhood's music legacy

 Country music capital Nashville was once also a hotbed of blues, rock and jazz, thanks to a historically Black neighborhood that brought then-budding greats like Jimi Hendrix to town.

But Jefferson Street’s vibrant community and its robust club scene faced mid-20th century decimation after the construction of an interstate highway slashed it in two, a classic tale of ruinous urban planning that all but extinguished the area’s rich musical legacy.

Lorenzo Washington, a lifelong Nashville resident who grew up in the area, has been vying to keep that history alive, operating a small museum out of his home that’s chock-full of music ephemera as well as records and maps exhibiting the district’s long-lost vitality.

“We had it all. We had banks, we had grocery stores, clothing stores, flower shops, ice cream parlors — just whatever you would need to survive as a community was right here on Jefferson Street,” the 81-year-old told AFP.

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He recalls a strip lined in revelers spilling out from supper clubs, speakeasies, dance halls, dives and pool rooms, a string of venues where on any given night you might catch stars from Hendrix to Etta James, Ray Charles to BB King.

“Everybody had fun on Jefferson Street,” Washington said with a wide smile, sporting a sharp blue suit jacket and felt hat. “That’s just the atmosphere that we had built.”

For decades Jefferson Street was a hotspot on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of venues where Black entertainers were welcome to perform in the era of racial segregation in the United States.

Hendrix arrived in the early 1960s, nabbing a residency at the Club Del Morocco and living in a Jefferson Street walk-up.

But the 1968 construction of Interstate 40, a major east-west thoroughfare, cut directly through the neighborhood, displacing more than a thousand Black residents and destroying the cultural and business district, triggering a severe economic decline.

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The clubs shuttered and all but one, Club Baron, was demolished.

Artists gravitated elsewhere — Memphis or Chicago, for example — and “the blues left Nashville,” said Washington.

“That was tragic to the city when we lost Black music,” he continued, saying the city was focused on its country scene and paid little attention to Jefferson Street.

“It was tragic to see our musical culture being split up like it was, the different artists and musicians just sort of scattered,” Washington said. “They went to wherever they could find work, or a record label, that would record them.”

“So it all left Nashville, and it was heartbreaking.”

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‘My part of town’

Washington is not a musician himself, but he did own a record shop throughout the 1970s and grew up surrounded by artists, his friends including Jefferson Street fixtures like Herbert Hunter and Marion James.

He moved back to the neighborhood in 2010, inspired by a newspaper article he’d seen in which a councilman friend of his said the only way to revitalize Jefferson Street was for Black folks to return and open businesses again.

“I need to move back to Jefferson Street — to my part of town,” Washington recalls thinking.

“And so that’s what I did.”

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Friends of his including the late James — Nashville’s “Queen of the Blues” — encouraged him to open the museum in a bid to “do more about keeping our legacy going.”

“They said you could be the curator. And I said, ‘The curator? Now what does a curator do?’” he remembers with an infectious chuckle. Well over a decade later, he says, “I’m still here on Jefferson Street representing the artists and musicians.”

Along with the museum, which officially opened in 2011, Washington operates a recording studio out of his home, along with a small performance space.

Washington was integral to ensuring the Club Baron — where then up-and-comer Hendrix lost a famous guitar duel to Nashville bluesman Johnny Jones — would get protection via designation as a local historic landmark.

The building now is owned by the local Elks Club, a fraternal order, and efforts are underway to begin hosting shows there once more.

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Today’s Nashville is “an aggressive city” compared to the city Washington knew growing up, he said, where high rollers call the shots.

“It’s sort of sad to see that all of this isn’t existing now,” Washington says, as he points out all the old haunts on a lot map hanging in his museum.

“My intention was to… encourage other businesses to move back to Jefferson Street, so we could pick up sort of where we left off at.”

“This little place has gotten attention,” Washington said. “There’s not a lot that’s going on publicly in this city that represents the Black community, and that’s what we’re representing.” “It’s not huge, but I can see growth.” 

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