Mark McQuinn explores the football landmark in London in honour of a Brazilian who plied his trade in Japan
The crowded walk down Tottenham Court Road has a redeeming feature. Towards Oxford Street there is a side road which contains a landmark that is capable of gripping those in the know with those feelings of football frenzy that every true fan understands so well. The Gen Sushi Bar is never likely to be favoured by a Michelin star, but it deserves its place in the pantheon of football landmarks on the basis of the way one particular item is listed on the menu – Kappa Maki (Alcindo Roll).
Kappa maki, or cucumber roll, is not the most exciting piece of sushi ever created, being something of a Clayton Blackmore compared to those Ravanelli’s and Juninho’s of the sushi world – jou-tor (tuna fillet) and awabi (shellfish). The addition on this particular menu of “Alcindo Roll” in brackets, however, conjures up for followers of Japanese football images of some of the J-League’s finest moments, as executed by an effervescent Brazilian, Alcindo.
In 1993, Alcindo turned up in Japan to play for Kashima Antlers with a very average track record in international football and an infinitely worse one in the more serious orbit of international coiffure. With shaven heads trendy these days Alcindo, as a paid up member of the ‘Honestly, it does make you more virile’ club, had an opportunity to present himself to the Japanese as a sexy Latin, who could samba round defences at will, put the booze away quicker than Tony Adams and Paul Merson combined and then square up to the cameras in supercool Marvin Hagleresque fashion.
Unfortunately, he singularly failed to take this chance. From the first day of his stay in the country he flew the flag for all those who spit in the face of accepting hair loss with dignity. A shiny pate is the centrepiece of his ’do, framed by curtains of long, fair locks on either side, which fall to shoulder length. A drunken kick around following the afternoon sound check for Uriah Heep or Jethro Tull looks like the most he could manage.
However, Zico, the Antlers’ star turn, had been the prime mover behind Alcindo’s move to Kashima, and he proved to be an astute judge. Having an old hippy from Brazil up front was obviously the missing piece in the Antlers jigsaw as they stormed through to become the first stage champions in 1993, the league’s inaugural year, with Alcindo as top scorer in the first half of the season.
However, Alcindo’s failure to develop any meaningful relationship with a hairdresser in Japan led to him becoming the focus of as much ribald attention from the press and public off the pitch as his skilful play generated serious notice from defenders on the field of play. Local Sushi bars decided to commemorate the exploits of the new hero by dedicating an item on the menu to him. Kappa maki was the obvious choice. It is named after legendary monsters (kappa) that have a great fondness for cucumbers. The bald patch on their concave heads is covered by a saucer from which they derive great strength, as long as these remain wet. This is not as big a problem as may be imagined at first, as kappa hang out in rivers by choice.
Alcindo remained unaware of the tribute that the local Sushi bars had paid him for a while, until recognising his name on a menu one evening, he made enquiries. Pleased, flattered, honoured, he was not. Being named after a decidedly unsexy, cucumber eating monster, whose other hobbies include stealing the testicles of horses, did not thrill the J-League’s most deadly striker.
The man who, along with Zico, had been largely responsible for turning a nondescript team into championship contenders, understandably perhaps, expected a slightly greater tribute.
A row, which was covered by the national media, ensued. Realising that Alcindo was far too good a player to lock horns with, strenuous efforts were made to placate him, through assurances that the tribute was affectionate, and indeed a mark of the high respect in which he was held. Alcindo, mollified by these efforts, continued to star for the Antlers in the second stage of the league programme, where they were overhauled by the superior bank balance of Yomiuri Verdi, who then signed him. Plus ça change.
Those who run the Gen Sushi bar may be fans of Kashima Antlers or Yomiuri Verdi, or maybe just of Alcindo himself. It doesn’t really matter. What is important is the fact that they have created a small but perfect reminder of the delights of the J-League in the centre of London. The sight of Alcindo Roll written on the menu is guaranteed to set anyone in the know off on long recollections of mazy dribbles interspersed with tales of purloined horse gonads. What more could one ask for from an evening?
From WSC 123 May 1997. What was happening this month