Nakamura to miss up to three weeks


Yokohama F. Marinos confirmed last Sunday that captain and star midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura will need three weeks to recover from a right thigh muscle injury.

The 36-year-old had pulled up during training on Friday, a day before F.Marinos traveled to play Montedio Yamagata and lost 1-0 in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League’s ninth round.

News of the two-time J.League Most Valuable Player’s injury will come as a further blow, given he already returned to action faster than expected after undergoing ankle surgery in February.

Nakamura has only managed three appearances so far this season, all when coming off the bench.


FC Tokyo to begin fan recruitment for initiative

FC Tokyo will launch their fourth “Let’s pack the Ajinomoto Stadium Army” initiative following the clash with Kashima Antlers on 10th May.

Tokyo fan club members over the age of 18 will be recruited after to help with posting posters that publicise the club’s forthcoming matches.

Designated gathering points for volunteering fan club members include the areas behind the main and back stands of Ajinomoto Stadium.

These areas will be kept open for 30 minutes after the end of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League 1st Stage clash to facilitate the meetings.

Massimo Ficcadenti’s outfit have emerged as contenders for the league title this season, sitting in second place just three points behind leaders Urawa Reds.


Grampus announce former player Ogura as new GM

Former Nagoya Grampus striker Takafumi Ogura will rejoin the club as its General Manager until 2017, the club announced last Friday.

Ogura, who was at Grampus from 1992 until 1999 apart from a short stint on loan abroad with Excelsior Rotterdam, quickly declared his joy in a statement.

“This call gave me the chance to rejoin the club after fifteen years,” the 41-year-old said.

“I am thrilled by the chance given to me, and at the same time I feel a great responsibility.

“I have a lot to learn, but I will do the best for this club.”

Ogura helped Grampus to a pair of Emperor’s Cup wins in 1995 and 1999, and also scored a goal in five appearances for Japan in 1994.


Ventforet bring back club talisman Bare

Ventforet Kofu confirmed on Sunday that a deal for the return of striker Bare is all but complete, with an official announcement pending just a final medical check.

Bare left Chinese club Tianjin Teda at the end of 2014 and will now re-sign for his former club, where he was a prolific scorer in the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

The 33-year-old also enjoyed successful spells at Omiya Ardija and Gamba Osaka during the previous decade, and has amassed a total of 119 goals in 247 J.League matches to date.

He recorded a notable double hat-trick in his first stint at Ventforet, scoring all six goals in a 6-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol on 12th December 2005.

The troubled outfit are currently bottom of the table, and will be hoping that their former talisman can turn around their fortunes this season.


Reds leave victory over Gamba late through Zlatan

Zlatan Ljubijankic’s strike for Urawa Reds was enough to defeat Gamba Osaka 1-0 and halt the champions’ six-game winning run in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League 1st Stage.

The pair have been neck-and-neck at the top of the table this season, and the Reds ensured they extended their initial advantage over their main rivals to four points on Saturday.

Gamba had the better chances early in the clash through Takashi Usami and Patric while Yasuhito Endo hit the bar, but the Reds eventually took control on home soil.

Tomoya Ugajin’s pull-back across the face of goal in the 84th minute found Zlatan arriving to smash home his third league goal of the season, and his most crucial one so far.

Kenta Hasegawa’s side were unable to reply and end the weekend having lost second spot in the table to FC Tokyo, who beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-1.

It was the visitors who took the lead in a balanced tie via hotshot Yoshito Okubo, who nodded in his seventh goal of the season in the 21st minute.

But Tokyo were able to break Frontale’s resistance following Shintaro Kurumaya’s sending-off right after the hour mark, as Kosuko Ota soon rifled in a perfect free-kick to get his team level.

And with only several minutes left on the clock, Yoshinori Muto picked the perfect time to get back into scoring form with a precise headed winner to propel the capital side up in the table.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima likewise capitalised on Gamba Osaka’s slip to pull themselves level on 19 points, a 2-0 win over Vegalta Sendai meaning they consolidated fourth place.

On the other hand, Kashima Antlers find themselves eight points adrift of the final AFC Champions League qualifying spot after a woeful 1-0 home loss to bottom Ventforet Kofu.

Junya Ito struck for the guests right after the restart and Toninho Cerezo’s Antlers were never able to find their way back, leaving them overhauled in the standings by Nagoya Grampus.

Kensuke Nagai had gotten the scoring started as Grampus beat the plummeting Shonan Bellmare 3-0, goals from Kengo Kawamata and Marcus Tulio Tanaka finishing the job.

Sagan Tosu sit level on 14 points after being pegged back by Vissel Kobe for a 1-1 draw; Hitoshi Morishita’s outfit being unable to hold on to their third minute lead as Keijiro Ogawa struck a 77th minute equaliser.

In the relegation scrap, Albirex Niigata bagged what could turn out to be a crucial 2-1 win at Matsumoto Yamaga to prolong their stay outside of the bottom three.

Strikes from Leo Silva and Kosuke Yamamoto either side of Naoki Maeda’s temporary equaliser set the visitors on the road to victory.

Instead, it is Yamaga who are now threatened with being sucked deeper into the dogfight, with Montedio Yamagata rising level on points with them after beating Yokohama F.Marinos 1-0.

Hopes are fading for Shimizu S-Pulse meanwhile, as an attack led by Mitchell Duke and Peter Utaka were unable to find the breakthrough in a 0-0 draw with Kashiwa Reysol.

The stalemate takes S-Pulse’s winless streak in the J.League to eight games now.


Sato appears at Yamaga-Albirex match

J.League Female Manager Miki Sato was present for the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League clash between Matsumoto Yamaga and Albirex Niigata on Saturday.

Sato took part in several events over the course of the day in and around Matsumotodaira Park Stadium as part of her duties to promote the league.

In the end, it was away-side Albirex who sewed up a crucial 2-1 victory, with Leo Silva and Kosuke Yamamoto scoring either side of half time to hand the visitors victory.


Reysol keeper Sugeno gets married

Kashiwa Reysol revealed last Thursday that goalkeeper and club stalwart Takanori Sugeno has gotten married.

“I got married the other day,” Sugeno said in a statement issued through the club.

“But as always I want to work hard to earn a victory for my team, to help myself improve, and to appreciate the important things in my life.”

The Saitama-native has been at Reysol since 2008, making nearly 300 appearances for the club in all competitions since.

Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Shimizu S-Pulse was Sugeno’s second clean sheet of the 2015 J.League season.


New Antlers striker Dinei raring to go

Kashima Antlers confirmed Brazilian striker Dinei officially signed with the club on Friday.

Dinei was initially set to join Antlers in January, but the contract could not be signed after a medical check revealed a problem with the player’s right knee.

Nevertheless, the free agent spent most of April training at the club, and has now celebrated his full recovery by penning a permanent contract.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be able to join Kashima Antlers,” Dinei, who will wear the club’s No 9 shirt, said in a statement.

“Through participating in team training over the last month I have been able to restore my fitness.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the front office and coaching staff who have assisted me throughout this process.

“Now I want to work hard so I can be on the pitch as quickly as possible. I want to write a new page in this club’s history, and I want to thank everyone for your support.”

The 31-year-old, who formerly played for Celta Vigo in Spain, will boost the firepower available to Toninho Cerezo, as he looks to help the club qualify for the AFC Champions League.


Grampus legend Stojkovic recognised by Japanese government

Nagoya Grampus announced that former player and coach Dragan Stojkovic received a decoration from the Japanese government on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old Serbian was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun 4th Class for his contributions to Japanese football, and encouragement of relations between Japan and Serbia.

Former Yugoslavia international ‘Piksi’ played for Grampus between 1994 and 2001, before going on to serve as their manager from 2008 to 2013.

Stojkovic was named the J.League’s Most Valuable Player in 1995 and took the Manager of the Year award in 2010, the same season he led the club to their first J.League title.


Urawa Reds announce Snoopy, Rilakkuma tie-up goods

Urawa Reds have revealed a new line of merchandise that will go on sale starting from the club’s matchday 9 fixture against Gamba Osaka this Saturday.

Items making their debut include tee-shirt collaborations featuring comic strip Peanuts icon Snoopy, as well as keychains featuring popular Japanese mascot character Rilakkuma.

The new items will be available at merchandise stands in and around Saitama Stadium 2002, as well as the official Reds Voltage club shop.


Vissel raise over $2000 for Nepal relief

Vissel Kobe announced they had raised 251,804 yen in donation money for the earthquake-stricken nation of Nepal on Wednesday.

Fans contributed the equivalent of US$2100 to the fund before the club’s MEIJI YASUDA J1 League matchday 8 game against Nagoya Grampus at NOEVIR Stadium Kobe.

The amount will now be donated to a non-profit organisation providing relief to the South Asian country.


Murata injury blow for S-Pulse

Shimizu S-Pulse have confirmed that Kazuya Murata will be sidelined for up to a month due to a hamstring strain he picked up last Saturday.

The winger had to be withdrawn on the half-hour mark against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, in a match Katsumi Oenoki’s men lost 2-0.

Murata had recorded one goal and three assists in seven games before his injury, with his absence now a blow to S-Pulse’s survival efforts.

The 26-year-old moved to IAI Stadium Nihondaira in 2013, and was pivotal last season after scoring a crucial winning goal against Kawasaki Frontale.

New S-Pulse signings Mitchell Duke and Peter Utaka must now shoulder more attacking responsibility between themselves, after starting together for the first time this season at Sanfrecce.


Sato to promote Tokyo-based clubs in J2

J.League Female Manager Miki Sato will be at JEF United Chiba ahead of their MEIJI YASUDA J2 League match versus Yokohama FC this Sunday.

The purpose of her visit will be to promote the “Capital District’s Four Battle – Mascot Duel”, a mini-competition involving the Tokyo-based clubs playing in the second tier.

While Tokyo Verdy and Omiya Ardija also belong to the category, only JEF United and Yokohama’s mascots will face off in this round given the demands of the fixture calendar.

Apart from charming fans at the duel, Sato will also be engaging them during both the “Parents and Kids DE Kick Target” and “JEF Petting Zoo” events.

Both JEF United and Yokohama are amongst the contenders to secure promotion to the top flight at the end of the season.


FC Tokyo leading race for ACL qualification next term

FC Tokyo emerged 1-0 victors at Albirex Niigata on matchday 8 of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League to continue leading a chasing pack vying for AFC Champions League qualification next season.

Massimo Ficcadenti’s men have emerged as contenders to challenge for the league title this season, finishing Wednesday’s action back in third and the final automatic qualifying berth for the ACL.

And securing the minimum of reaching continental competition in 2016 appears to be the objective of the capital club, after Masato Morishige struck an 87th minute winner in a smash-and-grab victory over Albirex that proved their resolve.

Tokyo effectively displaced Kawasaki Frontale, another leading candidate for ACL qualification next season, in the table, after the latter’s 1-4 drubbing at the hands of Kashiwa Reysol.

The hosts were dominated from the start despite Shogo Taniguchi’s opening the scoring in the 43rd minute; Kosuke Taketomi needing only three minutes to level the score for Reysol, with a little help from the post.

Frontale looked shocked and the visitors capitalised, Masato Kudo scoring a brace from headers - the second his 50th J1 League goal - after the break before supplying Cristiano for his team’s fourth in a glorious day at the office.

An important three points secured took on even more significance later for the current ACL Group E leaders, as they loom in the rear-view mirrors of rivals Sagan Tosu after the latter surrendered 4-2 at Shonan Bellmare.

The 2014 J2 winners ended a run of three consecutive defeats when they powered back into a 3-1 lead through Shuhei Otsuki, a Kaoru Takayama blockbuster and Tsuyoshi Shimamura despite Hiroyuki Taniguchi temporarily drawing Sagan level.

Shimamura would go on to secure his brace in the 76th minute, pouncing on a shot blocked by visiting goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi, with Yohei Toyoda’s strike a minute after simply keeping the score respectable for Sagan.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima ensured they have completely overcome a wobble in the first weeks of April, coming from behind to beat Yokohama F.Marinos 2-1 away for third win in a row via goals from Douglas and Hisato Sato either side of half time.

Gen Shoji and Caio ensured Kashima Antlers defeated Vegalta Sendai 2-1 to respond in the best possible way to a home hiccup last weekend, though the J.League title already seems out of sight given the insatiable form leaders Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka are in.

Tsukasa Umesaki had fired the Reds into the lead against Ventforet Kofu, before Zlatan Ljubijankic proved the wisdom of his signing when he blasted in at the second attempt after seeing his penalty initially saved for a tidy 2-0 win at Yamanashi Chuo Bank Stadium.

Nothing seems capable of stopping Takashi Usami either this season, as he netted the winner in Gamba Osaka’s 1-0 win over Matsumoto Yamaga - his ninth goal this season.

Despite defeat, Yamaga still find themselves three points above the drop zone thanks to Shimizu S-Pulse’s thrilling 3-3 draw against fellow relegation candidates Montedio Yamagata.

A stunning first-half blitz by the home team in which they went 3-0 up was only eclipsed by Yamagata’s second-half one, as Nobuhiro Ishizaki’s side rallied to come back all the way in a devastating 10-minute spell in the closing stages of the match.

Two sides that look of achieving mid-table security this season on the other hand are Vissel Kobe and Nagoya Grampus.

The latter emerged the victors when the pair clashed on Wednesday, Kensuke Nagai turning home the rebound off a corner for the 1-0 result at Noevir Stadium.


Saneto out of Frontale plans with spinal injury

Kawasaki Frontale announced on Monday that defender Yuki Saneto will be out for about six weeks due to a lumbar spine stress fracture.

The 26-year-old was taken to Kawasaki City Hospital on 22nd April for the examination.

Saneto has spent his entire career at Frontale, joining in 2010 and playing 73 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE matches since.

He will face a battle re-establishing himself in coach Yahiro Kazama’s plans however, given he has yet to play a part in the team's remarkable rise this season.


Suzuki to enjoy second spell abroad

Vegalta Sendai confirmed that Norio Suzuki, who played for the club in 2014, joined Philippines’ Global FC on Monday.

It is not Suzuki’s first stint abroad, given he previously enjoyed a spell in France’s Ligue 2 with SCO Angers after spells with FC Tokyo and Vissel Kobe.

The wide-man moved back to Japan in 2010 to join Omiya Ardija, before playing a part in Sendai’s top-flight survival last term.

The 31-year-old had recorded a total 17 goals in 171 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League appearances prior to moving to the Philippines’ United Football League.


Former Sanfrecce striker Yuki Tamura to sell limited-edition empanadas

Sanfrecce Hiroshima announced that former striker Yuki Tamura will sell limited-edition empanadas outside Edion Stadium on 10th May.

The retired 29-year-old is now the operator of the Samurai Otemachi restaurant in Hiroshima, after stints playing in Japan and Paraguay.

The empanadas, which will be sold before Sanfrecce face Gamba Osaka on MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec 11, are the stuffed pastries that Tamura learnt to prepare in his time in Paraguay.

He will be joined at his stand by former team-mate Mana Nakao, who played for Sanfrecce between 2005 and 2007.


Gamba confirm “Supporters Thanksgiving Day”

Gamba Osaka announced on Saturday that the “2015 Supporters Thanksgiving Day” will take place on 28th June.

The event will start at 14:00 local time and be held at Banpaku Stadium, with free admission for members of Gamba Osaka’s official fan club.

Member of sixth-grade elementary school level and below are encouraged to bring along a non-member to increase the exposure the fan club enjoys.

Fans could well be left celebrating the champions’ victory in the first stage of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season, which ends for the club on 27th June.

Kenta Hasegawa’s side stayed within a point of leaders Urawa Reds at the top with a 2-1 win over Albirex Niigata last Sunday.

A cheeky opener from Takashi Usami and Patric’s winner after Albirex had temporarily equalised was enough to see Gamba emerge victors.


Sato’s presence a highlight at F.Marinos win

J.League Female Manager Miki Sato attended the match between Yokohama F.Marinos and Shonan Bellmare on Saturday in Yokohama.

She appeared decked out in an F. Marinos home kit, and mingled with fans in Nissan Stadium’s “Tricolore Land”.

Her pre-match activities extended to joining children playing in the “Kids Pitch Land” jump house set up next to the pitch.

F.Marinos would go on to defeat Bellmare 3-0, with Ademilson, Manabu Saito and Seitaro Tomisawa all appearing on the scoreboard.


Albirex’s Suzuki celebrates becoming a father

Albirex Niigata confirmed that Musashi Suzuki’s wife successfully gave birth last Thursday.

“I want to thank my wife,” the striker said afterwards. “With my family growing, I now have more responsibilities.

“However, I won’t stop enjoying football, day after day.”

The 21-year-old is a member of the Japan Under-23 squad, after being born to a Jamaican father and a Japanese mother.

Suzuki joined Albirex Niigata in 2012 and has scored five goals in 53 league games, though he is yet to add to that tally this season.