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Hokushinetsu League Preview 2006
Ferverosa

From the city of Matto in Ishikawa prefecture, Ferverosa are on their third name in just five seasons of playing Hokushinetsu League football, having spent a couple of years being known rather memorably as Matto Orange Monkey and then as plain old Matto FC. They have made gradual rather than spectacular improvement in the meantime and have the long-term aim of winning a place in the JFL. In 2006, however, their main challenge will be to break into top three places, over which Japan Soccer College, Nagano Elsa and Kanazawa SC have had a stranglehold in recent seasons.

05 Apr 06 - Ferverosa's Matto Sports Park

Ferverosa's Matto Sports Park

Japan Soccer College

A unique institution in Japan, JSC is an educational foundation and at the same time forms a part of the youth set-up at J1 side Albirex Niigata. Since joining the Hokushinetsu League in 2003 the College of Upward Players in Soccer – as they are also on occasions known – have proved to be highly competitive opponents, winning the League at the first attempt and coming second in 2004 and 2005. It is conceivable that they could have won last year as well, but a narrow home defeat late on in the year to Nagano Elsa cost them dear. Possible champions this time around, although Zweigen Kanazawa’s improved squad may prove too great an obstacle.


Matsumoto Yamaga Club

Formed in 1965, Yamaga Club have been members of the Hokushinetsu League since it started a decade later, although they have won the title only once – in 1985 – and have spent the last couple of seasons in Division 2. But since around 2002, the Ptarmigans have been gearing themselves to make a play for J-League membership, developing an infrastructure to support the magnificent Alwin Stadium to which they have access in their home base in the south of Nagano prefecture. Promoted back to Division 1 for 2006, the ambitious club are coached by Keiju Karashima – who has played extensively in the J-League playing experience and was most recently on the staff of Kashiwa Reysol’s youth team – but may lack the experience to make another push for promotion just yet.


Nagano Elsa

Along with Matsumoto Yamaga Club, Nagano Elsa are jockeying for position as the number one candidate for a J-League franchise in Nagano prefecture. Formed more recently than their local rivals, in 1990, they eventually gained promotion from the Prefectural League in 1996 and since 2002 have become one of the top teams in the Hokushinetsu League. 2005 saw Elsa win the championship for the second time – and in extraordinarily dramatic circumstances, when a 6-1 crushing of then-leaders Kanazawa SC saw them move into pole position with a single game to go. They were somewhat outclassed when it came to the Play-offs for a JFL spot, but will be in the race again this year.

05 Apr 06 - The mighty Niigata University of Management

The mighty Niigata University of Management

Niigata University of Management

There are few examples now of Higher Education institutions fielding teams outside of the Japanese college football structure, but Niigata University of Management are making a pretty reasonable job at straddling that particular fence. The university itself was founded in the mid-90s and as well as playing in the Hokushinetsu University Regional League, in 2004 NUM entered the regular Hokushinetsu League Division 2. This they won at the first attempt and a 2-2 draw against Toyama Shinjo Club in a promotion / relegation play-off at the end of 2005 saw them retain their place in the top division. Nevertheless, they’re likely to struggle this season.


Teihens FC

Teihens FC’s participation in the Hokushinetsu League has been nothing if not consistent. Despite having competed every season since 1977, the Kanazawa prefecture-based club have taken the title only in 1991 – and they have been stuck in their normal lower-mid-table finishes virtually every season since that time. They were heading for relegation in 2005, but a remarkable spurt in the last three matches bagged the team ten goals while conceding only one to overhaul both Niigata University of Management and Ueda Gentian. But Teihens will be one of the teams fighting to avoid the drop come the end of 2006.


Ueda Gentian

From Nagano prefecture, Ueda Gentian were established in 1981 and until 1995 took part in the local Prefectural League. On winning promotion to the Hokushinetsu League, Ueda acquitted themselves well and by the turn of the century - following the promotion of Albirex Niigata, Alo’s Hokuriku and YKK - the club seemed to be becoming one of the strongest teams in the region. But the last few years have seen them fade from contention and in 2005 they finished sixth, a single place above a relegation play-off spot. Ueda Gentian’s chance would seem to have gone and they could be playing Division 2 football in a year’s time.

05 Apr 06 - Zweigen Kanazawa at the unveiling of their new first team squad

Guess who, at the unveiling of their new first team squad

Zweigen Kanazawa

One of the new major players on the Japanese Regional football scene, Zweigen Kanazawa were formed at the beginning of 2006 from the ashes of Kanazawa SC, with the aim of being the Hokushinetsu region’s second J-League team after Albirex Niigata. Following Kanazawa SC’s collapse during the 2005 run-in – in which they fell from first to third place over the last two matches – Zweigen are a re-launch of the original squad with added quality from several fringe J-League players, backed by major new sponsors. NHK football commentator Michel Miyazawa takes over as "supervisor", former Kanazawa boss Eiji Nagai working as coach under him; anything less than a Hokushinetsu League title will be failure.
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