Association football in Japan
Association football is one of the most popular sports in Japan. Its nationwide organization, Japan Football Association, administers the professional football league, J. League, which is the most successful association football league in Asia.
- 1 Name
- 2 History
- 3 Football in fiction
- 4 Women's football
- 5 Championships and tournaments
- 6 Japanese footballers
- 7 Men's national team achievements
- 8 Women's national team achievements
- 9 Seasons in Japanese association football
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Although the official English name of the Japan Football Association uses the term "football", the term sakkā (サッカー), derived from "soccer", is much more commonly used than futtobōru (フットボール). The JFA's Japanese name is Nippon Sakkā Kyōkai.
Before World War II the term in general use was shūkyū (蹴球, kick-ball), a Sino-Japanese term. With previously exclusive Japanese terms replaced by American influence after the war, sakkā became more commonplace. In recent years, many professional teams have named themselves F.C.s (football clubs), with examples being F.C. Tokyo and Kyoto Sanga F.C.
The introduction of Association Football in Japan is usually credited to the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club – founded September 23, 1870 by a group of mainly British foreign residents – led by Dr. Alexander Cameron Sim in Kobe.
Other opinions, association football was introduced in Meiji period by O-yatoi gaikokujin, foreign advisors hired by the Japanese government, along with many other foreign sports. The first Japanese association football club is considered to be Tokyo Shukyu-dan, founded in 1917, which is now competing in the Tokyo Prefectural amateur league.
In the 1920s, football associations were organized and regional tournaments began in universities and high schools especially in Tokyo. In 1930, the Japan national association football team was organized and had a 3–3 tie with China for their first title at the Far Eastern Championship Games. Japan national team also participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the team had a first victory in an Olympic game with a 3–2 win over powerful Sweden.
Aside from the national cup, the Emperor's Cup established in 1921, there had been several attempts at creating a senior-level national championship. The first was the All Japan Works Football Championship (AJWFC), established in 1948 and open only to company teams. The second was the All Japan Inter-City Football Championship (AJICFC), established in 1955 and separating clubs by cities (any club, works, university or autonomous, could represent their home city and qualify) but the Emperor's Cup remained dominated by universities until the late 1950s. All these tournaments were cups following single-elimination formulas, similar to Serie A in Italy before 1929.
The first organized national league, the Japan Soccer League, was organized in 1965 with eight amateur company clubs and replaced the AJWFC and AJICFC. At the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, the Japan national team, filled with the top JSL stars of the era, had its first big success winning third place and a bronze medal. Olympic success spurred the creation of a Second Division for the JSL and openings for the first few professional players, in the beginning foreigners (mainly Brazilians), and a few from other countries. Japanese players, however, remained amateur, having to work day jobs for the companies owning the clubs (or other companies if their clubs were autonomous). This limited the growth of the Japanese game, and many better Japanese players had to move abroad to make a living off the game, such as Yasuhiko Okudera, the first Japanese player to play in a professional European club, (1. FC Köln of Germany). UEFA and CONMEBOL aided the Japanese awareness of football by having the Intercontinental Cup played in Tokyo as a neutral venue.
In 1993, the Japan Professional Football League (commonly known as the J. League) was formed replacing the semi-professional Japan Soccer League as the new top-level club competition in Japan. It consisted of some of the top clubs from the old JSL, fully professionalized, renamed to fit communities and with the corporate identity reduced to a minimum. The new higher-standard league attracted many more spectators and helped the sport to hugely increase in popularity. The professionalized league also offered, and offers, incentives for amateur non-company clubs to become part of their ranks with no major backing from a company; major examples of community, non-company-affiliated clubs who rose through the prefectural and regional ranks into the major leagues are Albirex Niigata and Oita Trinita.
Japan participated in its first-ever World Cup tournament at the 1998 FIFA World Cup held in France. In 2002, Japan co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Republic of Korea. After this, the association football communities of both countries received the FIFA Fair Play Award. The Japanese national team reached the Round of 16 which is its best World Cup performance to date. It also qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Football in fiction
The first worldwide popular association football-oriented Japanese animation (manga) series, Captain Tsubasa, was started in 1981. Captain Tsubasa was extremely popular among children (boys and girls) in Japan. Its success led to many more association football manga being written, and it played a great role in association football history in Japan. Playing football became more popular than playing baseball in many schools throughout Japan from 1980s due to the series.
Captain Tsubasa has also inspired the likes of prominent footballers such as Hidetoshi Nakata, Seigo Narazaki, Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Fernando Torres, Christian Vieri, Giuseppe Sculli and Alessandro Del Piero to play association football and choose it as a career.
The anime Giant Killing revolves around a team's efforts to go from one of the worst professional teams in Japan to the best.
As in Europe's advanced countries, Japanese women's association football is organized on a promotion and relegation basis. The top flight of women's association football is the semi-professional L. League (currently billed as the Nadeshiko League). Most clubs are independent clubs, although the recent trend is to have women's sections of established J. League clubs.
Championships and tournaments
- J. League (Japan Professional Football League) is the top national league in Japan with a J1 division and a J2 division.
- Japan Football League (JFL) is the national amateur league.
- Emperor's Cup (since 1921) the national open cup.
- J. League Cup is the cup restricted to J. League members (usually J1 alone).
- All Japan Senior Football Championship, cup for clubs in regional leagues below JFL.
- All Japan Regional Football Promotion League Series, round-robin elimination tournament for promotion of regional-league clubs into JFL.
Other international tournaments held in Japan
- 1958 3rd Asian Games, Tokyo
- 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games
- 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship
- 1992 AFC Asian Cup, Hiroshima
- 1993 FIFA U-17 World Championship
- 1994 12th Asian Games, Hiroshima
- 1998 Dynasty Cup, Tokyo & Yokohama 
- 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup (joint with South Korea)
- 2002 FIFA World Cup (joint with South Korea)
- Intercontinental Cup / Toyota European/South American Cup (1981–2004)
- 2005–2008, 2011–2012 FIFA Club World Cup
- Kunishige Kamamoto (1944– ), Top scorer in 1968 Summer Olympics.
- Yasuhiko Okudera (1952– ), The first Japanese player in the European League (Bundesliga).
- Kazuyoshi Miura (1967– ), Asian Footballer of the Year in 1993.
- Masami Ihara (1967– ), Most capped (122) player and Asian Footballer of the Year in 1995.
- Hidetoshi Nakata (1977– ), Asian Footballer of the Year in 1997 and 1998
- Shunsuke Nakamura (1978 – ), Scottish Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year in 2007.
- Homare Sawa (1978–), FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in 2011.
- Shinji Ono (1979– ), Asian Footballer of the Year in 2002.
See also Category:Japanese footballers.
Men's national team achievements
- 1968 Mexico Olympic Games – Bronze Medal
- 1992 2nd Dynasty Cup 1992 – Champion
- 1992 10th Asian Cup – Champion
- 1993 5th Afro-Asian Nations Cup – Champion
- 1995 3rd Dynasty Cup – Champion
- 1998 4th Dynasty Cup – Champion
- 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship – Silver Medal
- 2000 12th Asian Cup – Champion
- 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup – Silver Medal
- 2002 FIFA World Cup – Round of 16
- 2004 13th Asian Cup – Champion
- 2010 FIFA World Cup – Round of 16
- 2011 15th Asian Cup – Champion
Women's national team achievements
- 1986 AFC Women's Championship – Runner-up
- 1989 AFC Women's Championship – Third place
- 1990 Asian Games – Silver Medal
- 1991 AFC Women's Championship – Runner-up
- 1993 AFC Women's Championship – Third place
- 1994 Asian Games – Silver Medal
- 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup – Quarterfinals
- 1995 AFC Women's Championship – Runner-up
- 1997 AFC Women's Championship – Third place
- 1998 Asian Games – Bronze Medal
- 2001 AFC Women's Championship – Runner-up
- 2002 Asian Games – Bronze Medal
- 2006 Asian Games – Silver Medal
- 2008 AFC Women's Asian Cup – Third place
- 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup – Third place
- 2010 Asian Games – Gold Medal
- 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup – Champion
- 2012 London Olympic Games – Silver Medal
- 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup – Champion
Seasons in Japanese association football
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Association football in Japan.|
- J. League
- List of football clubs in Japan
- Japan national football team
- Japan women's national football team
- Japanese football league system
- Japanese football champions
- Sport in Japan
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- Japan Football Association (English version)
- FOOTBALL-1 International Football Business Exhibition (English version)
- Hongo, Jun, "SOCCER IN JAPAN: Japan team has foot in World Cup door but can it kick?", Japan Times, February 9, 2010, p. 3.
Paolo Di Canio
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