Sakka & Pop Cultcha

After the Sakka series in my blog, my brother realized how much football had become part of pop culture. So here is the afterword on the subject (If you haven’t already read the Sakka series, do so now!).

The other day, I was browsing through the Kinokuniya book store (the Japanese book store outside Bryant Park in NYC) and I realized something. There was actually a whole section dedicated to football manga. This struck me as very odd. Football is not the most popular sport in Japan or in the United States for that matter. While an all football manga section in Japan wouldn’t be out of place, a similar arrangement in the US was surprising. Football is definitely well below all the popular American sports in the popularity charts. What struck me as even odder was the fact that there was no manga section dedicated to baseball or any other American sport. Perhaps this is an example of football & pop culture inspired globalization at its best. Continue reading

Sakka – The Blue Samurai

Blue Samurai

The Blue Samurai

In my earlier posts, we saw how the J-League catapulted Japanese football to international standards in an astoundingly short period. However, the World Cup 2014 showed that the Blue Samurai (as the Japan national team is popularly known) are not quite there yet. Talented players, great clubs, but not yet a world-beating nation. Why? Continue reading

Sakka – The J-League Revolution: III

In my last 2 Posts we saw how the J-League evolved a great platform for the maturing of Japanese Football. In this post we will discover the fruits of their efforts.

More Reforms

arsene wenger

The Wily Frenchman

After the highs of 1995, interest in the J-League started to sag. This led to some important changes by the JFA. The league had expanded to 18 clubs in 1998. The expanding nature of theleague made the JFA introduce a second division in 1999 with promotion/relegation. The second division consisted of 10 clubs taken from the semi-professional JFL. The criteria for becoming members of the second division or J2 were similar to those of J1 but slightly less strict. Some clubs in the league had been consistently among the bottom-dwellers right since the league’s inception. Every time the league expanded, they would end up in a worse position than the previous season. They would now have to worry about their survival in the top flight and this gave them an incentive to finally improve. A classic example of this trend was Nagoya Grampus Eight which managed to finish at the bottom on a consistent basis. Their downward trend would eventually change with the arrival of Arsene Wenger (the wily Frenchman who is now synonymous with a Arsenal FC of London). Another important structural change in the league was the dropping of the penalty shootout and also the introduction of the points system 2 years earlier.

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Sakka – The J-League Revolution: II

Twenty teams from the JSL had applied to become members of the new professional league. Of these, only the ten that met the criteria set by the JFA (as mentioned earlier) were accepted.

J-League Name JSL Name
Gamba Osaka Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd
JEF United Ichihara Furukawa Electric Soccer Club
Nagoya Grampus Eight Toyota Motor S.C.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Mazda SC
Urawa Red Diamonds Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Verdy Kawasaki Yomiuri FC
Yokohama Flugels Yokohama Tristar SC / All Nippon Airways
Yokohama Marinos Nissan Motors FC
Kashima Antlers Sumitomo Metal Industries
Shimizu S-Pulse N/A

 Sumitomo Metal Industries was promoted to the J-League from the 2nd division of the old JSL and Shimizu S-Pulse was a newly formed team from the Shizuoka prefecture. The rest of the teams were all from the first division of the JSL. Prior to the start of the J-League, the Yamazaki Nabisco J-League cup was held in September 1992 and Verdy Kawasaki emerged victors. The tournament was quite successful as a pre-league tournament and had relatively large crowds as recounted by former Verdy player Tetsuji Hashiratani. Continue reading

Sakka – The J-League Revolution: I

Saburo Kwabuchi

Saburo Kawabuchi – The man behind J-League

Following the push for a fully professional football league in Japan, the first revitalization committee was formed in March 1988 to perform a complete makeover of the already existing Japan Soccer League (JSL). This was soon followed by the formation of a second revitalization committee in October 1988. Not long after, the Japan Professional Football League (better known as the ‘J-League’) was finally formed on 1st November 1991 with Saburo Kawabuchi as the founding chairman of the league. Kawabuchi was a member of the team that upset Argentina in the 1964 Olympics under the legendary Dettmar Cramer. He played as a forward for the national team and Furukawa Electric in the JSL in the 60s. However, it would be as a footballing administrator that Kawabuchi would have a lasting impact on Japanese football. While on a national team training camp in Germany in the 60s, he was surprised to see the extensive sporting infrastructure through which people could enjoy sport. He longed to establish a similar sporting environment in Japan where people could easily take part in sport and have fun. Three decades later, he would serve as the chairman of the J-League from 1993 to 2002 and then as the president of the league from 2002 to 2008. He would eventually be honoured for his efforts in steering the J-League when the Japanese Football Association (JFA) inducted him into the Japan Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Continue reading

Sakka – Humble Beginnings

The final 8 places of the Football World Cup have been won and unfortunately Japan has not made it. Japan was arguably Asia’s last hope. Japan’s rise in Asian and even World football is a remarkable story. I have commissioned my very own brother (the in-house football expert) to narrate this story. He follows football around the world very closely. So, brace yourself for a long and interesting story over many posts.

Given that football is the world’s most popular sport (FIFA currently has 207 member nations), it should come as no surprise that the ‘Beautiful Game’ has its own special place in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. This has however not always been the case with ‘Sakka’ (Soccer in Japanese). Traditionally, baseball and Sumo wrestling have always enjoyed a huge fan following which continues to be the case to this day. Baseball’s huge following can be traced back to the US occupying forces Americans introducing and popularising the sport in Japan. Football though, was slightly late to the party, but has seen its stock rise in Japan considerably since.

Emperors Cup

The Emperor’s cup along with some promotional material

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