The J-league top division comes to an end with a new Champion.
May 15th, 1993. This is the date when the professional Japanese football league was established. Before that time, Baseball dominated most people’s interest over any other sports in the Far East. (Sumo might be the second favourite sport). But the J-league also increased Japanese people’s football enthusiasm, and turned it into one of the most popular sports here in Japan.
Nowadays, eighteen clubs are playing in first division and nineteen clubs in second division. In the beginning there were just ten clubs participating in J-league. These clubs are often called the ‘Original 10’. Six clubs out of ‘Original 10’ had already won the J-league title, and November 20th, 2010 there was a seventh as Nagoya Grampus Eight claimed their first title.
Nagoya Grampus Eight are based in Nagoya Aichi Prefecture and originally founded as the company team of the Toyota Motor Corporation. They are currently having a great spell under the former Grampus and Serbian international play-maker Dragan Stojković. Their defence is pretty solid with Japanese international keeper Narazaki and defender Tulio, who, you may remember, broke Drogba’s arm before World Cup 2010 on international duty.
Attacking is quite simple. When they get the ball, they give it to Kennedy. This 194cm Australian international striker helps it onto a supporting midfielder, feeds to them, and then knocks it in from their crosses.
Today’s match, the league leader Nagoya Grampus Eight take on Shonan Bellmare who are at the bottom of the table and already relegated to second division next season. Grampus have the possibility to clinch J-league title only if they win against Bellmare and 2nd placed Kashima Antlers draw or lose against Vissel Kobe.
In the 1st half, Grampus try to take possession but Kennedy was unable to keep the ball due to Bellmare’s pressure. Unexpectedly Bellmare create chances from right hand side but a lack of shot accuracy sees both teams are level after the first 45minutes.
nto the second half, the match situation hasn't changed until Grampus’s manager Stojković finally makes up his mind. One substitution soon changes everything completely. Midfielder Ogawa walks off for Sugimoto. Three minutes after the replacement, Sugimoto passes the defender, provides a good cross and another international striker from Japan, Tamada heads into the net. Grampus take the lead and their dearest wish could be about to come true.
The match continues and Bellmare gain possession. But they have the lowest scoring record in the league. A few minutes before the final whistle blows, Kashima Antlers match finishes with a nil-nil draw against Vissel Kobe. That means Nagoya become the new champion of J-league division one. It is a historical day for one of the ‘original 10’.
Arsène Wenger on Nagoya Grampus Eight.
Arsène Wenger, former Grampus manager before joining in Arsenal, who helped the team winning the Emperor’s Cup and took his team from the bottom three to a runners-up finish in the J-League in 1995.
“Stojković was my former player and he came here many times to England when he became manager of Nagoya,”
“I am still in touch with Nagoya over their decisions. I am personally very happy, very proud because we started the work at Nagoya. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them because it’s a fantastic achievement for them.
“When I arrived they called Nagoya the burden of the J-League. In the first season we finished second in the League and won the Cup, the Super Cup as well.
“The happiness of people who love football [was also a highlight]. We were sold out in every single game. That is not the case anymore now I’ve heard but at that time the enthusiasm of the people around the team was fantastic.”