The return of Consadole Sapporo to J.League Division One after an absence of three years caught the interest of The Asahi Shimbun. Hokkaido’s sole representative in the professional game in Japan held a social event on 15 January to “Kick Off 2012”. Approximately 6,000 fans gathered at the Sapporo Dome to hear the thoughts of manager Nobuhiro Ishizaki and his players.
Consadole’s squad numbers some thirty-three players for the 2012 season, with seven transferring from other clubs, including the veteran forward Hideo Oshima. The 31 year-old striker has scored 106 goals in 403 appearances since his debut in March 1998, but whose playing time last season on loan at JEF United Chiba from Albirex Niigata was limited to just nine matches, scoring three goals in that time.
Ryuji Kawai captained the side during its successful push for promotion in 2011, and will see his attacking options bolstered by the recruitment of Shunsuke Maeda from Oita Trinita. The feisty 25 year-old forward scored eight times in 28 starts for the Azzurro, but also collected ten yellow cards and a sending off in that time. One interesting addition to the squad could be that of Issei Takayanagi, the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima player whose prolonged absence through a cruciate ligament injury ensured he missed all but the final two months of the J.League season and which resulted in his release by Sanfre.
Following Tatsuya Yamashita’s decision to return to Kansai and his former club Cerezo Osaka, Naoto Matsuo was signed from Shonan Bellmare to provide some additional cover in the defence, while five former youth team members have been promoted to the senior squad.
Consadole have begun their pre-season in Sapporo, with a camp in Guam to follow at the end of January, before moving to Kumamoto from February 12.
The Daily Yomiuri notes that Yokohama F-Marinos manager Yasuhiro Higuchi has set a target of qualification for the AFC Asian Champions League for the season. The 50 year-old from Mie believes that a tally of 68 points is sufficient to secure a berth in the competition, despite three teams breaking the 70 points barrier in the 2011 season.
And finally, Nippon Sports focuses on the Samurai Blue’s quest to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic football tournament. Preparations for the match against Syria in Jordan on 5 February have been hit by the withdrawal of Cerezo Osaka ace Hiroshi Kiyotake from the training camp in Guam owing to tonsillitis. The 22 year-old attacking midfield player, who has featured on several occasions for the senior national team, is a key member of the U-23 unit, and a failure to recover in time will come as a significant blow to the squad.
(The Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Hokkaido. The dome features a retractable grass pitch which is moved into the stadium on a bed of air when football matches are played)