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April 26, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup teams: Japan (AFC), prominent players in 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying (theoretical best XI for Japan, with 3 other player-options listed).

Filed under: Japan,Japan nat'l team (soccer) — admin @ 6:40 pm




Japan national team. AFC (Asia). Nickname: サッカー日本代 (Soccer Nippon Daihyo). Home jersey: dark blue with red trim.

-Japan is in Group C (with Colombia, Greece, and Ivory Coast), ‘2014 FIFA World Cup Group C‘ (en.wikipedia.org).

2014 FIFA World Cup qualification: 2014 is Japan’s 5th qualification [5th consecutive] out of a 15 possible qualification attempts (1930 & 1934: did not enter; 1938: withdrew; 1950: banned [as a result of sanctions following World War II]; 1954: did not qualify; 1958: did not enter; 1962: did not qualify; 1966: did not enter; 1970 to 1994: did not qualify; 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014: qualified).

Previous WC: 2010, Round of 16 / 2-1-1. Highest WC finish: 2002 & 2010, Round of 16 / 2-1-1.

Population of Japan: 126.6 million {2012 estimate}.
Capital and largest city: Tokyo, pop. 35.6 million (metro area) [city population, aka Tokyo Metropolis, pop. 13.1 million] {2011 figures}.

Japan national team coach, Alberto Zaccheroni. Alberto Zaccheroni.
Japan squad captain, Nürnburg DMF Makoto Hasebe. Makoto Hasebe.

[Note: players below reflect final 2014 WC squad selections.]
Below: Theoretical Best XI for Japan (with 3 other player-options further below) -
japan_2014-fifa-world-cup_squad_best-xi_alternate-options_r_.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Japan on globe map, by Connormah at ‘File:Japan (orthographic projection).svg‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Japan map, from Demis Web Map Server/Gallery at www2.demis.nl/worldmap/mapper.asp.
Japan 2014 WC jersey, photo from store.fifa.com.
Coach,
Alberto Zaccheroni, photo unattributed at theovallog.wordpress.com.
Goalkeeper,
Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liège), photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe via zimbio.com.
Defenders,
Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), photo by AP via english.ahram.org.eg.
Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), photo from gamba-osaka.net/club/player15.
Maya Yoshida (Southampton), photo photo unattributed at football2channel.blog.fc2.com.
Yuto Nagatomo (Internazionale), photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe via zimbio.com.
Midfielders,
Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images AsiaPac via zimbio.com
Makoto Hasebe (Nürnberg), photo unattributed at sportinglife.com/football/live/match-report.
Yasuhito Endō (Gamba Osaka), photo from gamba-osaka.net/club/player07.
Attacking MFs/Forwards,
Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), photo by Fredrik von Erichsen via rhein-zeitung.de/sport/fussball.
Keisuke Honda (Milan) photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images via gettyimages.com.
Shinji Kagawa (Manchester Utd), photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe via zimbio.com.
Other player-options,
Hiroki Sakai DF/RB/RMF (Hannover 96), photo by Bongarts/Getty Images via focus.de.
Hiroshi Kiyotake AMF/W (Nürnberg), photo unattributed at ballball.com/ja-jp/team/1-fc-nurnberg.
Yoshito Ōkubo (Kawasaki Frontale), photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images via gettyimages.com.
___
Thanks to the contributors at ‘2014 FIFA World Cup qualification‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Thanks to the contributors at ‘Japan national football team‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Thanks to http://www.transfermarkt.com/en/, for player-position details.
Thanks to Soccerway.com, int.soccerway.com/international/asia/wc-qualifying-asia/2014-brazil/4th-round/group-a/

June 14, 2013

Japan: 2013 J. League location-map, with 2012 attendance data & all-time J. League titles list. / Plus a short article on the history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football. / Plus, Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – their coach and their top players in their successful 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 9:14 pm

japan_j-league_2013-map_2012-attendance_post_2b.gif
Japan: 2013 J-League location-map,with 2012 attendance data & J.League titles list



    The J.League

J.1 (J. League Division 1) – fixtures, results, tables soccerway.com).

J.League official site – j-league.or.jp/eng.

2013 J. League Division 1‘ (en.wikipedia.org).

The J.League season runs from March to December. There are 18 teams in the league, making for a 34-game season. 3 clubs are relegated to J.2 each season and 3 clubs from J.2 are promoted to the first division at the end of each season. 2013 is the 18th season of the competition. Reigning champions are Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a venerable old club who finally won their first pro title in 2012. The most successful team is the Ibaraki prefecture-based Kashima Antlers, who have won 7 titles, last in 2009, and who are from the far eastern edge of Greater Metropolitan Tokyo, on the Pacific coast.

    Elements of the map page (J.League 2013 location-map w/ 2012 attendance data & all-time J.League titles list [1993 to 2012])

At the far left is the 2013 J.League location-map, which includes 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area. The 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area (with home Prefactures listed) are shown in an inset map at the center of the map page.

At the upper-center of the map page is the all-time titles list for J.League (17 seasons/1993-2012). All-time Japanese title list (amateur and pro titles) can be seen at the following link – ‘List of Japanese football champions [amateur champions of Japan, 1965-1992/pro champions of Japan since 1993]‘ (en.wikipedia.org).

At the right-hand side of the map page is the 2012 attendance data for teams in the 2013 J.League, in chart form. 5 attendance data details are featured (going from left to right on the chart)…
-2011 average attendance;
-2012 average attendance;
-Percentage change from 2011 to 2012;
-Venue [stadium(s)] Capacity [Note: many J.League teams also play some home matches at a nearby larger municipal stadium - for teams that use 2 venues, both venue capacities are listed];
-Percent-Capacity or percent-capacities for 2012 home matches [Percent-Capacity equals Average attendance divided by Venue Capacity].

At the very bottom of the attendance data chart is the key for league movements, with:
-green arrow for promoted clubs (to J.1) for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu, Oita Trinita, and Shonan Bellmare);
-red arrow for relegated clubs (to J.2) for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo, Vissel Kobe, and Gamba Osaka);
-green asterisk for current J.1 teams which were promoted up 2 seasons ago (FC Tokyo and Sagan Tosu);
-red asterisk & green arrow for yo-yo clubs on the rebound back to J.1 for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu);
-green asterisk & red arrow for yo-yo clubs going back down to J.2 again for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo).

    The history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football

Japan Soccer League (1965-92) [amateur].
Prior to the J.League, there was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), established in 1965 as the second national sports league in Japan (following baseball, in 1936). The JSL was full of company teams, many of whom have morphed into J.League football clubs, such as Urawa Red Diamonds [formerly Mitsubishi Motors' company team], Kashiwa Reysol [formerly Hitachi electronics company team] and Sanfrecce Hiroshima [formerly Toyo Industries (Mazda) company team]. The JSL remained amateur for its entire 28-year existence (1965 to 1992).

Prior to the JSL, the major-league sports model in Japan was based exactly on the American franchise sports model – with no relegation or promotion, and with franchise shifts allowed, and with the periodic inception of new expansion franchises. Specifically, Nippon Professional Baseball (Japanese major league baseball), and their complete emulation of Major League Baseball (which has 29 American teams and 1 Canadian team, all of whom have affiliations with minor league teams which are in fixed leagues that do not have promotion/relegation… just like the 16 teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball).

But when it came to another sport (association football), with a decidedly different but very well-established and proven professional system, Japan sensibly ended up (twice) doing what around 98 percent of the rest of the world has ended up doing (the most prominent exceptions being Major League Soccer based in USA/Canada; and in the A-League based in Australia/New Zealand). Japan has followed the British association football promotion/relegation model, which has been in place in English football since the late Nineteenth century {since 1888-89, see this ‘Promotion and relegation‘ (en.wikipedia.org)}.

In 1972, the [amateur] Japan Soccer League instituted promotion/relegation. And that format remained for the final 21 seasons of the amateur top-flight set-up in Japan (from 1971 to 1992). At the same time (1972) a national second division of Japanese association football was instituted – the Japan Soccer League Second Division. Among the founding 10 teams, 5 later on made in into the J.League: Toyota Motors (inaugural champion/ present-day J.League team Nagoya Grampus Eight), Yomiuri FC (present-day J.2 team Tokyo Verdy), Fujitsu (present-day J.League team Kawasaki Frontale), Kyoto Shiko Club (present-day J.2 team Kyoto Sanga), and Kofu Club (present-day j.League team Ventforet Kofu).

J.League, the first pro league of association football in Japan. Establishd 1993.
The J.League was established in 1993, as the first nation-wide professional league for association football in Japan. The people running the J.League in its early days (circa 1992 to ’97) tried to make it a closed shop (with no relegation, and with expansion clubs coming up only sporadically as de-facto promoted clubs [via the now-defunt Japan Football League (1992–98)]. But there was no corresponding relegation, so mediocre-to-outright-poor-teams were safe, and complacency set in.

By the mid-1990s, after the initial excitement about the new pro league faded, attendances eventually ended up plummeting – a 44% decline, from 17,975 per game in the first J.League season in 1993, to only 10,130 per game four years later in 1997. So the folks who ran the league then saw the light, and they instituted promotion/relegation. In 1999, the first professional Japanese second division was established – J.League Division 2 (aka J.2). Just prior to that, a promotion/relegation system was instituted, and some of the 1998 J.League teams ended up being relegated into the newly-formed pro Japanese second division in 1999.

Japan’s professional association football league format has included promotion/relegation for over 15 years now. (1998 season to 2013). Attendance was up 11.1% last season (2012), at an average of 17,565 per game {see this, ‘J.League 2012 – Attendance -’ (worldfootball.net)}. 4 football clubs in Japan averaged over 20,000 per game in 2012: Urawa Red Diamonds (of the northern suburbs of Greater Tokyo in Saitama prefecture), Albirex Niigata (from the west coast/Sea of Japan city of Niigata), the recently-promoted club FC Tokyo (of Tokyo Metropolis prefecture), and Yokohoma F. Marinos (of Yokohoma/Greater Tokyo).

In the 15 seasons since promotion/relegation has been established in Japanese pro football, exactly zero Japanese football clubs who have suffered relegation have gone out of business. That is 34 relegations, with 20 different clubs having been relegated from the Japanese first division since 1998 {see this, ‘J.League Division 1/Relegation history‘ (en.wikipedia.org)}. As a matter of fact, the reigning champions of Japan, the first-time J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima (from the western region of the main island of Honshu), were recently relegated – in 2007. Sanfrecce Hiroshima then were promoted back to the top flight the following season. Then Sanfrecce Hiroshima won the J.League title 6 years after being relegated.

For 3 straight seasons, now, a club that had never won the J.League title has been champion. For 2 straight seasons, now, a club that had recently been relegated has been champion. And one of those clubs was not a founding member of J.League. 2010 J.League winners were the central Japan-based Nagoya Grampus Eight [Arsene Wenger's old club]. 2011 winners were the Chiba/east-side-of-Greater-Tokyo-based club Kashiwa Reysol. [Kashiwa Reysol are from Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, around 33 km. or 20 miles east of central Tokyo, in the same prefecture as the NPB ball club the Chiba Lotte Marines.]

Kashiwa Reysol, established in 1940 as Hitachi, Ltd. Soccer Club in Kodaira, Tokyo, were a successful club throughout the amateur era but ended up waiting a bit longer than many other Japanese footballl clubs to turn pro (circa the early 1990s), and were thus left out of the initial line-up of clubs that made up the inaugural season of J.League in 1993. So they had to play their way into the league, which they first did in 1994, back when the J.League was expanding, but had not yet arrived at the decision to become a 2-tier pro set-up with promotion/relegation.

Kashiwa Reysol has also recently suffered the set-back of being relegated – twice – in 2005, then again in 2009. Kashiwa Reysol then became the first Japanese team to ever win back-to-back titles in J.2 (in 2010) then in J.League (in 2011, winning the crown by 1 point over reigning champions Nagoya Garampus Eight, and 2 points ahead of Gamba Osaka).

So in 2011, Kashiwa Reysol became the first team to earn promotion from J.2 to J.1, and then win the J.League title in the following season – joining that unique group of clubs which have won the national title the season after getting promoted to the first division (clubs such as Ipswich Town in 1962, Nottingham Forest in 1978, and FC Kaiserslautern in 1998). Granted, with the current state of finances of top flight football in England and Germany (and elsewhere), it is unlikely (without a wage cap) that we will see another incidence of a just-promoted club winning the title the following year in the Premier League, or in the Bundesliga. But, nevertheless, the possibility is still there. And regardless, the format of promotion/relegation is constantly injecting new life into the top flight – witness the captivating rise and success of Swansea City. You will never see a story like Swansea City occur in Major League Soccer, because there is no way on Earth that MLS would grant a franchise to a city as small as Swansea (which has a population of only 239,000 {2011 figure}). Major League Soccer is a league that refuses to implement a promotion/relegation system, because they are afraid that their franchises couldn’t survive a year in a theoretical second division. So all the fans of association football that are from mid-sized American cities know they will never have the chance to see their hometown soccer team ever make it to the top flight, unlike in England, and in France, and in Germany, and in Spain, and in Italy, and in Mexico, and in Brazil, and in Argentina, and in Japan. Because MLS is full of soccer franchises, instead of football clubs.

Japan’s J.League proves that a nation that once used only the franchise model for a national sports league can successfully implement the promotion/relegation model. And create more fan excitement, and increase attendance.

Here is an excerpt from this article from footiebusiness.com, from Nov. 20, 2012, by Ben Berger, ‘What American Soccer Can Learn from Japan‘, …{excerpt}…’ the J. League decided to create a lower “J2” league in 1999 to go along with the top league, now called “J1”. With this, they also instituted promotion and relegation. One result? Better marketing opportunities for the sport, with fans’ passion being upped a notch, and relegation battles being contested and publicized as much as championships. Take the example of Kashiwa Reysol…which was relegated from J1 in the 2009 season yet was promoted back the next year. Incredibly, Kashiwa won the J1 championship in 2011. That’s what dreams are made of – the key reason people follow sports. Nothing like it exists in North American sport.’ …{end of excerpt’}.

2011 J.League champions – Kashiwa Reysol.
kashiwa-reysol_2011_j-league_champions_hitachi-kashiwa-soccer-stadium_b.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Screenshot of a youtube.com video uploaded by jleague, ‘Kashiwa Reysol Vs Vegalta Sendai: J- League 2012 (Round 6)‘.

Kashiwa Reysol averaged a modest 13,768 last season, but boasted the second-best percent-capacity rate in J.League in 2012, at 77%-capacity at their smart and compact and running-track-free/4-separate-stands/15,900-capacity Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium. That percent-capacity figure was second only to north-Honshu Island-based Vegalta Sendai at 84 %-capacity in 2012 {see attendance chart on map above for full figures, which I got here (int.soccerway.com/japan}.

In 2012, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a club that has been relegated twice in the last 11 seasons (in 2002 and in 2007), won the J.League title. That the last two teams to win the title in Japan had both been recently been relegated shows the beauty of promotion and relegation. And in the 15 years since J.League adopted the promotion/relegation model, attendance has rebounded dramatically, rising over 7,000 per game, from that aforementioned low of 10,130 per game in 1997, to the 17,565 per game the J.League drew last year.

2012 J.League champions – Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Sanfrecce Hiroshima averaged 6th-best in J.League in 2012, at 17,720 per game (up 34.2% from 2011).
sanfrecce-hiroshima_2012_j-league_champions_hiroshima-big-arch_b.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
nipponnews.net/en/sports/hiroshima-sanfrecce-crowned-j-league-2012-champions

{Note: for some attendance data above, see this Japanese football site goal2002.com.

    Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – coach & top players in the current roster

Japan are the first team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Japan has now qualified for 5 consecutive FIFA World Cups.

From Guardian.co.uk/football, from 4 June 2013, ‘Australia concede late equaliser to Japan in World Cup qualifier
• Japan 1-1 Australia
• Samurai Blue qualify for the World Cup
‘ (guardian.co.uk).

alberto-zaccheroni_japan-coach_c.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Yoshida at japantimes.co.jp.

    Below – Top scoring threats on the Japan National Football team,
    Shinji Kagawa (MF), Keisuke Honda (FW), Shinji Okazaki (FW) -

japan-national-football-team_2014wc-qualifying_kagawa_honda_okazaki_i.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Koji Sasahara/AFP at foxsports.com.au/talents-like-shinji-kagawa-lead-regeneration-of-japanese-football-as-australia-struggle-to-meet-demands.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe via zimbio.com.
AP via japantimes.co.jp.
Unattributed at talksport.co.uk.
vfb.de.
shikoku-np.co.jp/sports/soccer.

    Below – defensive core of the Japan National Football team, FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation)…
    Eiji Kawashima (GK), Maya Yoshida (DF), Makoto Hasebe (MF & captain) -

japan-national-football-team_2014wc-qualifying_kawashima_yoshida_hasebe_f.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
mimizun.com/log.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe via zimbio.com.
Sky Sports via blog.livedoor.jp
yomiuri.co.jp via tumblr.com/tagged/maya yoshida.
Tsutomu Kishimoto/Picsport at photo.news.livedoor.com.
Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images) via Picasaweb at 123people.de/s/makoto+hasebe.

___
Thanks to Maximilian Dörrbecker at de.wikipedia.org for the blank map of Japan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Japan_location_map_with_side_map_of_the_Ryukyu_Islands.svg.
Thanks to worldfootball.net for J.League attendances, http://www.worldfootball.net/zuschauer/jpn-j-league-2012/1/.
Thanks to Goal2002.com for J.league Divisions 1 and 2 attendance data, http://www.goal2002.com/2012/tables.html ; 2011 j.League attendance data, http://www.goal2002.com/2011/tables.html.
Thanks to soccerway.com for J.League stadium capacities and percent-capacities, http://int.soccerway.com/national/japan/j1-league/2012/regular-season/r17068/.
Thanks to this section at the official J.League site, for stadia info, http://www.j-league.or.jp/stadium/ [J.League stadium guide].

April 22, 2009

J. League, 2009: the 18 teams in J.1, with 2008 final table chart.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 12:37 pm

j-league2009_post.gif 


J. League, J.1 Table {click here (ESPN Soccernet)}.   The Rising Sun News site (‘A Celebration of Football in Japan’)  {click here}.

Official J. League site (translated) {click here}.

Thanks to BigSoccer.com {this thread, here}.   Thanks to the contibutors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (J. League page)}.   Thanks to Demis.nl {click here}.

June 29, 2008

Japan: The J-League, 2008- Zoom Map.

Filed under: Japan,Zoom Maps — admin @ 5:34 pm

japan_zoom_post_b.gif


The J-League is back from it’s summer break, so it’s a good time to feature a zoom map of the J-1 level of the league.  [J-2, which has 15 teams, is the other level of the J-League structure.]

The J-League was formed in 1992, and began play in 1993.  There are 18 clubs in today’s J-1, with 2 or 3 clubs relegated each season, and 2 or 3 clubs promoted from J-2.  The two league strucure, with a promotion/relegation system, was established in 1999.  It features a playoff between the 16th place J-1 team v. the 3rd place J-2 team.  The season runs from early March to early December, with a 6 week break in the early summer.

The current champion is the Kashima Antlers, a club from the Ibaraki prefecture, which is part of the greater Tokyo area (east of the city).  They were able to wrest the Title away from the Urawa Reds on the last day of the season. Urawa Red Diamonds, who were founded by Mitsubishi Motors (and are still bank-rolled by the corporation), are the biggest club in Japan.  They are also from greater Tokyo, north of the city, in the Saitama prefecture  They drew around 46,000 per game in 2007, the highest average gate in all of Asia.  Their true goal in 2007 was to win the Asian Football Confederation Champions League Title, which had eluded all Japanese teams since Jubilo Iwata won the Asian Cup (the ACF C.L. predecessor) in 1999.  Urawa Reds achieved this goal, beating Sepahan FC, of Iran, in mid-November.  But this probably contibuted to them losing their focus on the J-League Title.  The Reds only earned 2 points off their last 4 league games, and Kashima Antlers leapfogged them on the last day of the ’07 season (3rd December).  {See this article, from FIFA.com.}

To see the current J-League table, {click here}.   Urawa Reds, who definitely aim to take care of unfinshed business, sit at the top, but only on goal difference, as they are tied for points with Nagoya Grampus Eight.  Both these teams lost Saturday, though.  The Reds went down 1-2 to Kashiwa Reysol, and now Reysol are just three points off the pace.  Grampus lost big, 0-4, to reigning champs Kashima Antlers, so now the Antlers are just 1 point off the pace, with the best goal difference in the league. 

On Sunday, Gamba Osaka beat newly promoted strugglers Consadole Sapporo 4-2 , so now Osaka is also one point below the lead.  FC Tokyo, a relatively new team, with no major trophies but a large fan base, drew versus relegation-threatened JEF United, and now are 2 points behind the lead. 

Throw Omiya Ardija into the mix (at 4 points off the pace),  and you have the recipe for an interesting close of the J-League season, with very likely a half dozen teams (or more) with a shot at the crown.   {J-League site, click here.}

There is a really good independent site for the J-League.  It’s called The Rising Sun News {click here}.  It’s full of lots of info, and graphics.

On the map, I have included a segment of my 2006 J-League Attendance Map, so the viewer can get a better picture of the Greater Tokyo teams’ locations, and their fan-base sizes.  **{Click here, for my 2006 J-League Attendance Map.}

On the map, for each team, I have listed J-League Titles, and Titles for the Emperor’s Cup (the oldest Cup competition in Japan).   {Click here, for Wikipedia’s page on the Emperor’s Cup.}   I have tried to list the original names of all the teams, most of which started as company-teams.  The corporate connections have played a big part in Japanese football, and as far as I can tell, only 3 teams currently in J-1 were not formed by any sort of corporation:  Kyoto SangaAlbirex Niigata,  and Shimizu S-Pulse. 

I began rooting for the Shimizu S-Pulse because I thought their stadium looked the most fan-friendly, the team played an up-tempo style, and I have always had a soft spot for orange kits.  But now that I know they were formed at the grassroots level (from a big footballing region: {see this}), and initially with no big corporate money behind them, I like them even more.  

Thanks to Demis, of the Netherlands {click here},  for the blank map of Japan.   Thanks to http://www.colours-of-football.com,  for the kits.   Thanks to the Albion Road site {click here}, for background on the teams. 

Thanks to Mike, from the Go! Go! Omiya Ardija site {Click here}, for responding to my e-mail, and pointing out misspellings.   Check out this site:  Ardija is shaping up to be the surprise team of ’08…which is nice to see, as the club labors under the shadow of fellow Saitama-dwelling J-League giants Urawa Reds, and last year were only 3 points away from the relegation playoff.

November 4, 2007

Japan: The 2006 J-League, with attendance figures.

Filed under: Attendance Maps & Charts,Japan — admin @ 2:10 pm

j-league_segment2.gif


I like the J-League because it has sprung up out of nowhere, and has such maniacal fans.  The fans make the games a colorful spectacle  Also, the caliber of play is better than one might expect, and you are likely to see some pretty nice goals here.  The Urawa Reds are poised to become Japan’s first “big” club.  They draw the biggest crowds (45,500 average), and finally won the league title last season.  Albirex Niigata draw extremely well (38,700), in spite of being a mediocre club.  FC Tokyo, Yokohama F. Marinos, and Oita Trinita average in the 20,000 to 24,000 range.  There are 10 clubs with respectable gates of between 13,000 and 18,000.  The J-League averaged 18,292 per game in 2006.

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