Leading up to what, for many reasons, should be an enthralling 2013 season, I’ll be creating some visual representations of data containing a number of interesting insights into the J.League and the wider of issues surrounding the growth of football in Japan. This post, which relates to the prefectures of birth of J.League Division 1 and 2 squad members at the end of the 2012 season, uses two methods to look at the same data. Initially each prefecture was accorded a simple total of squad members born inside their respective boundaries, and later, in an attempt to assess which prefectures could be regarded as the “football hotbeds” of Japan, I calculated that same number of players in the context of the relevant prefectural population.
Having previously noted on 9 November 2012 that discussions regarding a third professional tier of the J.League were set to commence before the end of the year, the Daily Yomiuri reports that the J.League is set to launch Division 3 in 2014.
In its inaugural season the number of participating teams is expected to be between ten and twelve, with a minimum stadium capacity requirement of just 3,000, compared to the 10,000 necessary required in J.League Division 2. While the 10,000 capacity stadia criteria in Division 2 makes little sense on the basis that average crowds across the division totalled just over 5,800, with only three teams nearer or above the 10,000 mark over the course of the 2012 season, the substantially smaller figure for the lower league should provide an easier standard of entry into the professional game for a number of teams currently residing in the JFL and the regional leagues.
There is no news at the present time as to how teams still owned and operated directly by parent companies will be affected, such as Honda FC, and where their future lies within the Japanese football league pyramid if they cannot or will not professionalise. Honda FC in particular made a deliberate decision to revert to fully amateur status having once been a J.League Associate Member, Honda Motor’s board assessing the environment and believing pursuing motor sport opportunities in the context of its main business to be the preferred option. It can only be hoped therefore that, despite the progress made by the J.League and the likely benefits that a third professional division will bring to the domestic and national game, one of the JFL’s stalwart members will be afforded sufficient consideration by the JFA in the event that it doesn’t garner the minimum level of support necessary from its fans and owners to become one of the third tier’s initial professional teams.
Masakatsu Sawa’s snap shot after a pass from Leandro Domingues was turned away well by Gamba Osaka goalkeeper Yohei Takeda. From the resulting corner, however, bent away from goal by Jorge Wagner, Yasuhito Endo could not climb high enough to divert the ball away from goal, and Masakatsu Sawa rose to plant a firm header beyond Takeda to score the only goal of the game for Kashiwa Reysol. which ended Gamba Osaka’s hopes of appearing in their sixth consecutive AFC Champions League. Reysol join Australia’s Central Coast Mariners, Guizhou Renhe from China and South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Group H, taking the final place reserved for a Japanese side in the competition. Gamba now have the opportunity to focus primarily on gaining immediate promotion back to the top-flight of Japanese football, but whether they are able to rely on the talents of senior internationals Endo and Yasuyuki Konno, together with the potent attacking abilities of Leandro and Akihiro Ienaga is a matter which will be decided in the coming weeks.