Japanese Non-league Football News

Hokkaido Champions Super League
As part of their so-called 2015 Project in order to raise the standard of football on the island and to promote the idea of a Hokkaido team reaching the JFL, the Hokkaido FA have launched a new tournament for 2008. It's called the Hokkaido Champions Super League and brings in seven participating teams from a range of different sources, as follows:

1. the top two teams from the 2007 Hokkaido League, i.e. Norbritz Hokkaido and Sapporo Winds;
2. the top two teams from the 2007 Hokkaido Universities League, i.e. Sapporo University SC and Dohto University SC;
3. the top two teams from the 2007 Prince League for youth players, i.e. Consadole Sapporo U18 and Muroran Otani HS; and
4. a team from local J-Leaguers Consadole Sapporo

With a league format meaning that each team players each other team twice, the fixture list runs from April through to the end of November, with a couple of dates to be confirmed. There will be occasional coverage of the tournament on JNFN, with particular attention given to the two Hokkaido League teams.

Close Season Name Changes
As well as JFL sides Mio Biwako Kusatsu and Sagawa Shiga FC, several Regional League teams have announced a change of name in the 2007 / 2008 close season. Here's an updated list of the modifications that have so far been made, a few weeks before the Regional League seasons get underway:

Banditonce Kobe changed to Banditonce Kakogawa
Takada FC changed to Diablossa Takada FC

Furukawa Electrics Chiba changed to SAI Ichihara SC
Yaita SC changed to Vertfee Takahara Nasu

Tokushima Vortis Amateur changed to Tokushima Vortis 2nd

FC Perada Fukushima changed to Fukushima United
Western Japan Football Tournament
The regular curtain-raiser to the Japanese non-league season, the Western Japan Football Tournament, was brought to an abrupt end in Okayama prefecture on Sunday, as a sudden snowstorm caused the cancellation of all of the final day's matches. This meant that none of the four play-offs were resolved and the eight participants will all be forced to share their final position in the tournament ranking with one other club.

Just to jump back and explain the background to the competition, though, the Western Japan Football Tournament is a pre-season competition involving the top two teams from the previous season's Kansai, Shikoku, Chugoku and Kyushu Leagues. As it turned out in 2008, no fewer than three newcomers to the JFL took part, in Fagiano Okayama, New Wave Kitakyushu and Mio Biwako Kusatsu - and in Group 1, it was Fagiano who got off to a good start with a 2-1 win in Friday's Semi-Final over 2008 Kyushu League runners-up Honda Lock.

Mio Biwako, on the other hand, were surprisingly eliminated on the same day by an increasingly competitive-looking Tokushima Vortis Amateur, while in Group 2 Banditonce Kobe squeezed past Kamatamare Sanuki on penalties and New Wave crushed FC Central Chugoku. On Saturday, Fagiano overcame Vortis to win Group 1 and New Wave triumphed over Banditonce to do the same in Group 2, but all Sunday's matches to bring the overall tournament to a conclusion were victims of the weather. Full details of the competition are below.

Group 1 Semi-Finals

Fri 22 Feb: Fagiano Okayama 2-1 Honda Lock
Fri 22 Feb: Tokushima Vortis Amateur 3-2 Mio Biwako Kusatsu

Group 1 3rd / 4th Place Play-off

Sat 23 Feb: Honda Lock 1-3 Mio Biwako Kusatsu

Group 1 Final

Sat 23 Feb: Fagiano Okayama 1-0 Tokushima Vortis Amateur

Group 2 Semi-Finals

Fri 22 Feb: Banditonce Kobe 1-1 Kamatamare Sanuki (PK 4-3)
Fri 22 Feb: New Wave Kitakyushu 6-0 FC Central Chugoku

Group 2 3rd / 4th Place Play-off

Sat 23 Feb: FC Central Chugoku 0-3 Kamatamare Sanuki

Group 2 Final

Sat 23 Feb: Banditonce Kobe 1-2 New Wave Kitakyushu

Tournament 7th / 8th Play-off

Sun 24 Feb: Honda Lock c-c FC Central Chugoku

Tournament 5th / 6th Play-off

Sun 24 Feb: Mio Biwako Kusatsu c-c Kamatamare Sanuki

Tournament 3rd / 4th Play-off

Sun 24 Feb: Tokushima Vortis Amateur c-c Banditonce Kobe

Tournament 1st / 2nd Play-off

Sun 24 Feb: Fagiano Okayama c-c New Wave Kitakyushu

Final Standings

1. = Fagiano Okayama
1. = New Wave Kitakyushu
3. = Banditonce Kobe
3. = Tokushima Vortis Amateur
5. = Kamatamare Sanuki
5. = Mio Biwako Kusatsu
7. = FC Central Chugoku
7. = Honda Lock
More Changes In Fukushima
Just days after the shock appointment to fledgling club Valiente Fukushima of George Weah as General Manager come developments at another club in the same prefecture with their eyes set on the J-League. FC Perada Fukushima failed to gain promotion from Division 2 (South) of the Tohoku League last season - pipped at the post by the third local candidates, Viancone Fukushima - but have relaunched under the name Fukushima United. As well as the change of moniker, United have signed 22-year-old midfielder Takeshi Kuwahara from Consadole Sapporo; defender Masaaki Watanabe, 24, from Grulla Morioka; and 25-year-old midfield man Kim Kisu from Mito Hollyhock.
Weah Sensation?
Hot on the heels of former Japan national team boss Philippe Troussier's appointment as General Manager of low-ranking JFL side FC Ryukyu come rumours in the Japanese press of a yet more sensational connection between the global game and Japanese non-league football. Rumours are circulating that former World Player of the Year George Weah has accepted an offer similar to that of Troussier, but from a club so far down the pyramid that they in fact barely exist.

Valiente Koriyama - not to be confused with Valiente Toyama of the Hokushinetsu League - were formed in 2007 with the long-term intention of bringing J-League football to Fukushima, north of Tokyo. The plan is that Valiente will enter formal competition this coming season in Division 3 of the Fukushima Prefectural League. This places them six tiers below J2, while seasoned observers of the amateur and semi-pro game in Japan will bear in mind that in Tohoku League sides FC Perada Fukushima and Viancone Fukushima, the local area already has two ambitious clubs at a far more advanced state of development than Valiente.

Liberian star Weah, 41, most recently turned out for UAE club Al-Jazira and towards the end of 2007 was reported as having been turned down by Slavia Prague after a trial with the Czech outfit. Troussier, meanwhile, has appointed as Ryukyu coach fellow Frenchman Jean-Paul Rabier. Rabier was a player with sides such as Laval, Valenciennes and Reims and the 70s and 80s, before going on to coach in his home country, Burkina Faso, Algeria and most recently Qatar.
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