FC Tokyo record historic six million fans at home games

FC Tokyo have become the sixth J.League club to welcome six million fans to home games in their history.

The capital club reached the milestone last Sunday thanks to the 42,070 fans who attended the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League matchday 11 clash against Kashima Antlers.

“We have accomplished this thanks to our fans, supporters, and everyone who is associated with the club,” FC Tokyo chairman Naoki Ogane wrote on the club’s official website.

“Thank you for your continued support.”

The 1-0 loss was Tokyo’s second straight sell-out home crowd, coming after their matchday 9 win against Tamagawa Clasico rivals Kawasaki Frontale.

Supporters have had even more reason to cheer their team on, with the capital side emerging as title contenders this season.


Yamaga Field Dream Project to resume in May

Matsumoto Yamaga have announced the continuation of their Field Dream Project.

The initiative by the club is intended to grant fans with physical disabilities their dreams of visiting a stadium.

Up to 20 applicants and their chaperones will be invited to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League matchday 12 encounter with Vissel Kobe this Saturday, as well as the following match against Yokohama F. Marinos on 23rd May.

Applicants with Japanese disability certificates, plus applicants without certificates who would require assistance in order to attend a match, have been invited to apply for the programme.


S-Pulse’s Muramatsu to miss three weeks

Shimizu S-Pulse announced on Monday that utility player Taisuke Muramatsu will require three weeks to recover from a fractured vertebrae.

Muramatsu sustained his injury during S-Pulse’s 2-2 draw against Sagan Tosu last Wednesday on matchday 10.

The 25-year-old has made four appearances for Katsumi Oenoki’s side this term, with his team-mates at last getting back to winning ways during the weekend.


Reds salvage 4-4 thriller to stay top

Urawa Reds somehow managed to emerge from matchday 11 with their lead at the top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League intact, despite being fought to a 4-4 standstill at Vegalta Sendai.

Sunday’s helter-skelter match at Yurtec Stadium would start ordinarily enough, Kim Min Tae opening the scoring before Yuki Abe pegged the Reds back right before half time.

But the game would afterwards explode to life in an intense half-hour spell, which began when Shinzo Koroki and Takahiro Sekine put the J.League leaders 3-1 up in the space of two minutes.

But Vegalta, who entered the relegation fight earlier in the week, roared back spectacularly when Hiroaki Okuno and Hirofumi Watanabe brought the hosts level by the 65th minute.

Vegalta striker Ryang Yong Gi then put his side back in the lead when he conjured a goal out of nothing, though the drama was not over as Koroki grabbed his brace with the equaliser and final goal of a thrilling game just a minute later.

The Reds nevertheless retained their single-point lead over FC Tokyo at the summit following the latter’s 0-1 home loss to Kashima Antlers - an end to their four-match winning run.

Toninho Cerezo’s men deservedly grabbed the opener in the 34th minute through Shoma Doi after capitalising on some slack Tokyo defending, with the capital team unable to respond in a dominant second half.

Their slip allowed champions Gamba Osaka to shave some deficit to Tokyo in the table, racking up their seventh win in the last eight games with a 1-0 victory at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Right after being instrumental to Gamba’s progress to the AFC Champions League round of 16, Lins rose highest to head home his team’s winner and put them level on 22 points with their opponents of the day.

Things are tightening at the bottom of the table too, after Shimizu S-Pulse snatched a 2-1 result - their first league win since the opening day of the season - at Vissel Kobe, Mitchell Duke scoring his first goal for the club in the process.

Earlier, Romero Frank had joined Diego, the latter grabbing a brace, in helping Montedio Yamagata in smashing three without reply past Kashiwa Reysol, who have endured a disappointing domestic campaign in 2015.

Later, Matsumoto Yamaga appeared to be heading towards a vital win at Sagan Tosu, but the hosts’ Daichi Kamada cancelled out Yuki Okubo’s opener at the death to result in a 1-1 draw.

Shonan Bellmare have at least revived their fortunes in the past week, cumulating in a 1-0 win at bottom side Ventforet Kofu courtesy of Shuhei Otsuki’s left-footed piledriver.

Yokohama F. Marinos triumphed over relegation-threatened Albirex Niigata by the same scoreline, as Yuta Mikado showed good composure to slot low to Hiroki Iikura’s left.

Sunday’s trend of single-goal victories had started with Nagoya Grampus proving unable to stave off defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale, with Yoshito Okubo netting a deserved winner to help the guests win 1-0.


Sanfrecce reveal kit to commemorate Sato’s 350th J1 appearance

Sanfrecce Hiroshima have unveiled the first jersey in a series of limited edition merchandise commemorating striker Hisato Sato’s 350th league appearance.

2012’s Most Valuable Player achieved the milestone on 29th April, when he started in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League matchday 8 tie at Yokohama F. Marinos.

The club made the announcement last Friday and began accepting pre-orders for the first round of goods - which includes a replica jersey and crystal stand - on Sunday.


Y.S.C.C. Yokohama continue Nepal fundraising efforts

MEIJI YASUDA J3 League outfit YSCC Yokohama called for donations to support post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal on Sunday.

Fundraising stations were set up in front of Yokohama Mitsuzawa Athletic Stadium before the team’s matchday 11 game against Fujieda MYFC.

Relief funds collected at the match will be combined with the amount raised during the matchday 9 clash with Renofa Yamaguchi and donated through the Japan Red Cross Society.


Tokyo bolster title bid with Nouioui signing

FC Tokyo announced the signing of former Tunisia international Lassad Nouioui on Friday, as they turn to his international credentials to strengthen their title charge.

The well-travelled striker enjoyed a notable spell playing for Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna between 2009 and 2012, where he scored 10 times in 66 La Liga appearances.

A move to Scottish titans Celtic followed before Nouioui eventually embarked on his Asian adventure, via a short period spent in Portugal with Arouca in-between.

“I’m incredibly happy to have come to Japan in order to play for FC Tokyo,” the 29-year-old told the club’s official website.

“The team is even more dedicated to football than I imagined before coming here, and I want to contribute to our success as soon as possible.”

Massimo Ficcadenti’s men have blossomed into genuine MEIJI YASUDA J1 League contenders in 2015, and are widely expected to push for the title all the way.


Ventforet release Bruno Dybal

Ventforet Kofu announced that Brazilian midfielder Bruno Dybal had been released early from his loan at the club on Thursday.

The 21-year-old, who joined the club in January, managed one MEIJI YASUDA J1 League appearance as well as one in the Yamasaki Nabisco Cup.

Bruno had been unable to make an impact on Ventforet’s attack this season, with the club mired bottom of the table having recorded just three goals from 10 games.

He will now rejoin parent club Palmeiras in time for their first Brazilian Serie A fixture of the season on Sunday.


Renofa offer lodging stipend for Shimonoseki home games

Third-tier outfit Renofa Yamaguchi on Thursday announced a stipend to assist fans attending games at the club’s secondary home ground of Shimonoseki Athletic Stadium.

Fans staying at participating hotels for any of the three eligible matches (versus the J.League Under-22s on 31st May, Machida Zelvia on 14th June, or SC Sagamihara on 4th October) will have half of their fees reimbursed by the club.

Located near the straits that separate Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures, Shimonoseki is nearly 70 kilometres from Renofa’s traditional home ground, Yamaguchi Ishin Memorial Park Stadium.


Usami, Muto and Okubo spearhead Japan camp

The Japan Football Association on Thursday announced its list of 28 players called to take part in the national team training camp.

Amongst Vahid Halilhodzic’s call-ups to take participate on 12th and 13th May in Chiba Prefecture are the J.League’s top four scorers.

Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka, 9 goals), Yoshinori Muto (FC Tokyo, 8 goals), Yohei Toyoda (Sagan Tosu, 8 goals) and Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale, 7 goals) will all hope to establish themselves in Halilhodzic’s plans ahead of upcoming World Cup qualifiers and the East Asian Cup.

Seven additional players, including Kashima Antlers’ Yasushi Endo and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Takuma Asano, have also received their first call-up from the association.

Below is the full list for the camp:


Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka)
Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds)
Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
*Yuji Rokutan (Vegalta Sendai)


Hiroki Mizumoto (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds)
Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo)
Kosuke Ota (FC Tokyo)
Hiroki Fujiharu (Gamba Osaka)
Tsukasa Shiotani (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers)
Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)
*Daiki Niwa (Gamba Osaka)
*Takuya Iwanami (Vissel Kobe)


Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka)
Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka)
Takuji Yonemoto (FC Tokyo)
Gaku Shibasaki (Kashima Antlers)
*Yasushi Endo (Kashima Antlers)
*Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale)


Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale)
Yohei Toyoda (Sagan Tosu)
Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus)
Kengo Kawamata (Nagoya Grampus)
Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka)
Yoshinori Muto (FC Tokyo)
*Kenyu Sugimoto (Kawasaki Frontale)
*Takuma Asano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)

(* Indicates first call-up on Japan duty)


Bellmare showcase ‘2015 Tanabata Uniform’


Shonan Bellmare revealed the 2015 Tanabata Uniform which the team will wear in their July fixtures on Wednesday.

Outfield players will wear kits sporting a green nebula design on a navy background, while the goalkeeper kits boast a cyan and navy blue colourway on cool grey.

Bellmare began taking pre-orders for the limited edition kit on Friday.

This season marks the ninth year that Bellmare players have worn special kits to commemorate Tanabata, or the Japanese Star Festival, taking place on July 7.


Gamba to face Koreans in ACL knockouts

Gamba Osaka have learnt that FC Seoul will be their next opponents in the AFC Champions League’s round of 16.

After winning Group F through an tournament-first three-way tiebreaker, the defending Japanese champions are set to face the Group H runners’ up.

Seoul have been prominent on the continental scene recently, after finishing ACL runners’ up in 2013 and semi-finalists in 2014.

The first leg will take place on 20th May at Seoul World Cup Stadium, with Gamba hosting the return leg on 27th May at Expo '70 Commemorative Stadium.


Urawa Reds announce results of Nepal fundraising

Urawa Reds on Wednesday announced the results of their fundraising efforts to support relief efforts in Nepal following the country’s deadly earthquake.

The club raised 403,713 yen, the equivalent of nearly USD$4,000, from fund-raising activities before their MEIJI YASUDA J1 League matchday 9 fixture against Gamba Osaka.

Funds that were raised at the “SPORTS FOR PEACE! Day” events around Saitama Stadium 2002 will be donated to Nepal via non-governmental organisation Friends of the United Nations Asia-Pacific.

Urawa Reds are the latest amongst many J.League clubs to have carried out fundraising activities in support of the South Asian country.


Becamex loss fails to cost Reysol group leadership

Kashiwa Reysol will be relieved that a 1-0 defeat at Becamex Binh Duong did not cost them top spot in Group E of the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.

Tatsuma Yoshida’s side lost their first Asian game of the season on the final day of the group stages, but remain first despite Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors equalling their points tally following their own 4-1 win at Shandong Luneng.

It took a goal from Vietnam’s Le Cong Vinh just before the hour mark to secure Becamex their first ACL win in a tight and competitive encounter.

Nevertheless, the loss remains inconsequential, with Reysol now to go on to face Group G runners’ up Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the round of 16 on 19th May.


Muto brace sinks Vegalta to leave them in deep water

Yoshinori Muto’s brace plunged Vegalta Sendai into the relegation fight, with a 2-3 home loss to FC Tokyo on Wednesday in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League leaving them hovering just over the drop zone.

The capital outfit had roared into a 3-0 lead by the the 52nd minute as Muto added a pair of goals to Masato Morishige’s opener, though Vegalta would nearly come all the way back when they scored twice in quick succession in the minutes before full-time.

Tokyo eventually hung on for a precious three points that propelled them level with J.League leaders Urawa Reds by the end of matchday 10 - the former having played a game more.

However, former high-flyers Vegalta have been on a five-game losing streak since April, with their objective for the season seemingly survival following several concurrent results at the bottom of the table.

Sho Naruoka salvaged a 1-1 draw for Albirex Niigata in the 91st minute against Montedio Yamagata, the solitary point earned keeping the latter stuck in 16th place despite taking the lead through Ryohei Hayashi.

Things went according to plan for Matsumoto Yamaga on the other hand, their 2-0 win over bottom side Ventforet Kofu with goals from Kohei Kiyama and Obina propelling them clear of the drop zone.

17th-placed Shimizu S-Pulse remain winless after their 2-2 draw with Sagan Tosu, taking the lead twice through Genki Omae only to see Sagan peg them back each time, with Kota Mizunuma scoring a particular beauty of a free-kick.

Vissel Kobe have suffered no such problems this season, and sit comfortably in mid-table after a stunning curling opener from Marquinhos secured a 1-1 result at Shonan Bellmare.

Nelsinho’s men are in fact only a point behind Nagoya Grampus after Yokohama F.Marinos put a halt to their rise with a 2-0 win, courtesy of goals from Ademilson and Kosuke Nakamachi.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima continue soaring on the other hand, as Douglas opportunistically snatched the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Kawasaki Frontale to extend their winning run to five games.

The resurgent side surge up to third place as a result, remaining only a point off the summit, and three ahead of defending champions Gamba Osaka.


Antlers lose sight of ACL dream with 2-3 loss to Seoul

Kashima Antlers saw their hopes of progressing from Group H of the AFC Champions League go up in smoke on Tuesday with a 2-3 home loss to FC Seoul.

Toninho Cerezo’s side were in charge of their own fates and needed a win to move on to the round of 16 following Western Sydney Wanderers’ victory at Guangzhou Evergrande earlier.

But while Shuhei Akasaki appeared to put Antlers’ on the right path with his powerful strike from distance in the ninth minute, laxness at the back ultimately proved to be their undoing.

Lee Woong-hee was the first to capitalise late in the first half, thumping in Seoul’s equaliser from a corner, before Osmar Barba put the visitors into the lead from another ball into the box.

Antlers’ captain Gaku Shibasaki levelled the frantic encounter at 2-2 with a scrambled finish in the 79th minute, sparking hopes for a memorable victory.

But it was not to be as Seoul’s Mauricio Molina netted their clincher in the first minute of added time, leaving the home crowd wondering what could have been,

Antlers will nevertheless aim to re-qualify for Asia’s premier club competition next term, and currently lie in 10th place in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League.


Kamata absence a new blow for Vegalta

Vegalta revealed on Tuesday that defender Jiro Kamata will be sidelined for up to a month after suffering a femoral biceps injury in his right thigh.

Kamata picked up the injury during Vegalta’s 2-0 loss at Sanfrecce Hiroshima last Saturday, when he had to leave the pitch in the 72nd minute.

The former Kashiwa Reysol man has played every MEIJI YASUDA J1 League match this term, and even scored a spectacular goal in the matchday 5 draw at Yokohama F.Marinos.

However, he now looks set to miss Vegalta’s tough upcoming ties against FC Tokyo and Urawa Reds, as Susumu Watanabe’s men look to end a four-game losing streak.


Reds finish Asian campaign with first win


Urawa Reds saw out their AFC Champions League obligations with a 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar on Tuesday.

Although left with nothing other than pride to play for after being eliminated from Group G in the penultimate round against Suwon Samsung Bluewings, the J.League leaders still strode to a confident win at Robina Stadium.

Shinzo Koroki capitalised on early Reds’ chances when he slotted past Brisbane’s Jamie Young in the 24th minute, before Yuki Muto grabbed the second right before the hour mark.

And though Andrija Kaluderovic snatched a consolation for the Australians with a powerful shot, Mihailo Petrovic’s outfit never looked in danger of losing control of the result.

Though victory was inconsequential, the J.League leaders look set to qualify for next year’s ACL edition, where they will make another pass for the Asian crown.


Albirex next to raise funds for Nepal earthquake relief

Albirex Niigata will solicit donations for Nepal following the deadly earthquakes that struck the country, the club have announced.

The club will open fundraising booths next to the information ones at Denka Big Swan Stadium before their matchday 10 clash with Montedio Yamagata on Wednesday.

The donations will then be handed to a charity participating in efforts to reconstruct Nepal following the damage caused by the earthquake on 25th April.

Albirex are among a number of J-League clubs who have raised funds for Nepal, with Vissel Kobe, Vegalta Sendai and Nagoya Grampus holding their own events over the past week.


Montedio to distribute carnations to lucky mothers

Montedio Yamagata will hand out special Mother’s Day gifts to mothers of young fans attending the game against Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday.

The first 200 attendees of high school age or lower to arrive at the Mother’s Day Booth in ND Soft Stadium will receive carnations.

They will be in Montedio’s signature blue colour, representing eternal happiness and good fortune, to pass on to their mothers.

Primary and secondary school students in Yamagata prefecture are already eligible to receive free tickets to most Montedio Yamagata home games.

The upcoming event is indicative of the J.League’s family-friendly values, with no shortage of mothers receiving flowers this weekend.