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Kansai League Preview 2006
AIN FOOD

Although now a corporate team based in Izumi City, Osaka, Ain Food have their roots in the football club of the Osaka College of Physical Education, who first achieved Kansai League status in 1987. Over the next few seasons, connections between the two organisations developed as Ain company management became more interested in strengthening their side – although there was something of a major hiccup to these plans when they were relegated back to the Osaka Prefectural League in 1994. Since 2002, though, Ain Food have become major players at Regional level, that same year just missing out on promotion to the JFL itself when they lost a play-off to Jatco. It’s hard to see past Banditonce Kobe as 2006 Kansai League winners, but Ain Food shouldn’t be all that far behind.


BANDITONCE KOBE

Despite now being one of the latest in a long line of memorably-titled Japanese clubs, in fact boring old Central Kobe is the original name of the team known only since the beginning of 2005 as Banditonce Kobe. Coached by former Gamba Osaka and Sagan Tosu player Koji Hashimoto, ambitious Banditonce won their final four matches of their inaugural season to pip Kobe FC 1970 for the Kansai League title, something Central Kobe had never managed to achieve in nearly twenty years of Regional football. Seeing off the challenge of both Shizuoka FC and Nangoku Kochi in the preliminary round of the promotion play-offs, it seemed as if the club’s dream of a JFL place was within their grasp – but the final group stage, alongside FC Ryukyu, Rosso Kumamoto and JEF Club, proved too much. Banditonce remain in the Kansai League for 2006, but will be one of the favourites to reach the JFL come the end of the year.

13 Apr 06 - Yuji Hashimoto, coach to Kansai League champions Banditonce Kobe

Yuji Hashimoto, coach to Kansai League champions Banditonce Kobe


KOBE FC 1970

One of the favourites for the 2005 Kansai League title, Kobe FC 1970 let slip from their grasp what would have been their first championship at Regional level on the last day of the season, a 1-1 draw at home to Takada FC allowing cross town rivals Banditonce Kobe to slip in and steal the silverware. The club have been solid but unspectacular performers since achieving promotion from the Hyogo Prefectural League at the end of 1997, but had appeared to be getting more competitive. Nevertheless, it seems as if - in the short term at least - Banditonce’s determination to reach the JFL will squeeze out well-organised community outfits like Kobe FC and 2006 may well see a reversion to their more habitual territory just above halfway.


KYOTO SHIKO CLUB

Having been established as long ago as 1922, Kyoto Shiko Club were founder members of the Kansai League in 1966 and quickly went on to become one of the top teams in the region, winning the title in both 1969 and 1971. They subsequently moved into the JSL and, despite a patchy career in what was then Japan’s top league, in 1993 gave rise to the J-League-bound Kyoto Purple Sanga. Since that time, Shiko have been on something of a downward spiral and sadly have become more or less also-rans in the Kansai League. 2005 even saw them down in Division 2 and although they gained promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt, they are likely strugglers this season.


AS LARANJA KYOTO

Despite fielding junior teams in the early 90s, AS Laranja Kyoto began competing at senior level only in 2000, when they entered – and won – the Kyoto Prefectural League. Gaining promotion to the Kansai League two years later, the club amazed fans locally as they ran away with the 2004 championship by a nine-point margin and so gained a place in the play-offs to reach the JFL itself. Not surprisingly, there they were beaten by the more experienced Mitsubishi Mizushima and Shizuoka FC to be eliminated at the preliminary round stage and 2005 proved a much tougher season back at Regional level. A top-half finish will be a good result for Laranja in 2006.


13 Apr 06 - Not a catfish in sight, it's FC Mi-o Biwako Kusatsu

Not a catfish in sight, it's FC Mi-o Biwako Kusatsu

FC MI-O BIWAKO KUSATSU

FC Mi-o Biwako Kusatsu were originally formed for school kids under the even better name of FC Mi-o Catfish Kusatsu, but became newly-established in early 2006 in Shiga prefecture to the east of Kyoto – and as such, they're not to be confused with J2's Gunma-based Thespa Kusatsu. In re-forming as a senior outfit, FC Mi-o have incorporated the Sagawa Kyubin Kyoto club, Kansai League Division 2 champions for 2005 and on the receiving end of arguably the shock result of the year across all of the Regional Leagues, when late in the season they crashed 8-1 at home to next-to-bottom Kobe FC Senior C. Already aiming for a future J-League place, FC Mi-o now boast a twenty-strong squad coached by former Vissel Kobe man Kota Nakao, but will be aiming to consolidate for 2006.


SANYO ELECTRIC SUMOTO

Well-established as members of the Kansai League since 1985, Sanyo Electric Sumoto have nevertheless picked up the championship on only one occasion, in 1989, and during recent seasons have slipped towards the foot of the table. 2005 saw Sanyo pick up enough points against the league’s weakest teams to nudge themselves into the top half, but even so are some distance away from being challengers to the likes of Banditonce Kobe and Kobe FC 1970. Instead, they seem likely to be in competition with such teams as Takada FC and should have just enough to avoid being drawn into a relegation fight.


13 Apr 06 - Takatakatakada

Takatakatakada

TAKADA FC

One of the smaller teams in the top division of the Kansai League, Takada FC’s most successful season to date was a second place finish in 2003. Other than that, the club from Nara prefecture have found it hard to become competitive at Regional level and, having finished 2005 just above the relegation zone, it’s hard to be too optimistic about their chances for 2006. But Takada, whose history dates back to the mid-70s and who were already in the Nara Prefectural League Division 1 by 1978, nevertheless claim to be working towards a JFL place – a praiseworthy enough ambition, but surely little more than a pipedream for the time being.
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Tohoku League Changes
Some changes to report to the line-up in the lower reaches of the Tohoku League for the forthcoming season. Aomori Prefectural League champions Hachinohe Kogyo High School OB, promoted to Dvision 2 (North) after making their way through the play-offs in November, have changed their name to the possibly even less user-friendly Vanraure Hachinohe. Meanwhile in Division 2 (South), Yamagata FC have withdrawn to leave only seven teams in the division for 2006.

13 Apr 06 - Vanraure Hachinohe - new name, new logo

Vanraure Hachinohe - new name, new logo
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