Football in Japan

Football in Japan

Football in Japan has become one of the most popular sport in the country. Its nation wide organisation, Japan Football Association administers the professional football league, J. League which is the most successful football league in Asia.


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 Japanese militarism 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 Yokohama F.C.


Football was introduced in Meiji period by O-yatoi gaikokujin, foreign advisors hired by the Japanese government, along with many other Western sports. The first Japanese 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 association were organized and regional tournaments began in universities and high schools especially in Tokyo. In 1930, the Japan national 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.

The first organized national league, the Japan Soccer League, was organized in 1965 with eight amateur company clubs. 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 Koln of Germany).

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.

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 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.

Football in fiction

The first worldwide popular football-oriented Japanese cartoon (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 football manga being written, and it played a great role in football history in Japan. Playing football became more popular than playing baseball in many schools throughout Japan from 1980s due to the series. Many people who grew up reading "Captain Tsubasa" are now in their 20s and 30s and form a large part of the current football fanbase. It even inspired national team players such as Hidetoshi Nakata and Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi to take up the sport in the first place.

Women's football

As in Europe's advanced countries, Japanese women's football is organized on a promotion and relegation basis. The top flight of women's 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.

Unlike in most of the West, Japanese sports fans cheer good sports performances regardless of gender, and do not take into account the physical beauty of the female players; [] this allows for a dedicated following among Japanese fans. Nonetheless, the Japanese women do not get much government or private backing, which often renders them unable to catch up to the Communist sports machines backing the Chinese and North Korean national teams.

Championships and Tournaments

Domestic 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 cup.
* All Japan Senior Football Championship, cup for clubs in regional leagues below 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, Toyko & 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)

Notable Japanese footballers

* Kunishige Kamamoto (1944 - ), Top socrer 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.
* Shinji Ono (1979 - ), Asian Footballer of the Year in 2002.

"See also ."

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

easons in Japanese football


See also

* J. League
* List of football clubs in Japan
* Japan national football team
* Japanese football league system
* Japanese football champions

External links

* [ Japan Football Association] ( [ English version] )

Football in Japan

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