Japanese Non-league Football News

A New Challenge From Morioka?
Regular readers of JNFN may perhaps recall the name Shinichi Muto being mentioned here before. The diminutive former JEF United and Oita Trinita midfielder had quite the J-League and returned to Iwate, his home prefecture, to coach and play for a new team with high ambitions. Grulla Morioka subsequently scraped into the Regional League Championship Winners' Play-off Tournament at the end of 2005, but failed to make it to the JFL and in the midst of all the fall-out, Muto quit. But he has recently emerged once more, right under the noses of a Grulla club trying to concentrate on a renewed attempt at seeing off the considerable challenge of the Tohoku region's top side, TDK Akita. For Muto has found employment with a new team whose aim has to be considered to be at least in part to undermine Grulla's ambitions - for FC Ganju Iwate are based not just in the same prefecture as Muto's former club, but the same city.

28 May 06 - FC Ganju Iwate at the end of their first competitive match - against Morioka Central High School in the qualifying stages of the Emperor’s Cup

FC Ganju Iwate at the end of their first competitive match - against Morioka Central High School in the qualifying stages of the Emperor’s Cup

FC Ganju were formed as recently as March and thus far have concentrated on playing friendlies and in the qualifying rounds of the All-Japan Shakaijin and the Emperor's Cup. Their four competitive matches to date - against smaller Iwate teams such as Pit Bull and Morioka Central High School - have all resulted in easy victories, which although they did end up on the wrong end of a 9-0 pasting by local J2 giants Vegalta Sendai is not surprising when one considers that, as well as Muto himself as player-coach, FC Ganju include in their squad players with experience of top-level regional football. Brazilian keeper Alex, for example, has moved from Shizuoka FC in the Tokai League - along with his compatriot, striker Enrique - and elsewhere they feature players previously with Fagiano Okayama and FC Central Chugoku, not to mention Grulla. Another goalkeeper, Kenji Tanaka, has spent his career to date in the J-League itself, most recently with Sagan Tosu but previously at J1 club Omiya Ardija.

The formation of FC Ganju is another example of the cut-throat ambition that can be found in pockets across Japan, as new franchises try their luck at becoming the next team to burst onto the scene and make a play for a J-League place. In places such as Yamaguchi in the south, Chugoku Leaguers Renofa Yamaguchi have the blessing of the local FA effectively to represent the prefecture in seeking to bring professional football to their area, and as such it is unlikely that another club will be established there with the same aim. But in Iwate - as in Nagano, where as has been closely documented on these pages, Nagano Elsa and local rivals Matsumoto Yamaga are locked in a battle to achieve prefecural and regional supremacy before they can assume a position on the national stage - the picture is far more confused. For as Grulla Morioka seem destined to finish runners-up to TDK in the Tohoku League this season, FC Ganju Iwate are now waiting in the wings to take over as local challengers.

JFL - Round 18 (Saturday)
Three matches in the JFL fixture list on Saturday, all of them remarkable in their own way. FC Kariya must have thought when Keisuke Haraga put them 2-1 up at home to Sony Sendai that they were three points closer to a very acceptable mid-table position. But two goals in stoppage time from Sony's Junpei Murata condemned Kariya to defeat and made it four wins on the trot for the northern side, who have scored fifteen goals during that time into the bargain. Moving steadily towards the top of the table, however, are two teams who could be turning into the surprise packages of the JFL season: Sagawa Kyubin Osaka have made themselves tough to beat and put four past Sagawa Printing to go second behind Honda FC, while hot on their heels are Yokogawa Musashino, comfortable 3-1 winners at SC Tottori.

08 Jul 06 - Yokogawa Musashino fans at the team’s win over Tottori

Yokogawa Musashino fans at the team’s win over Tottori

Sat 08 Jul: FC Kariya 2-3 Sony Sendai
Sat 08 Jul: Sagawa Printing 0-4 Sagawa Kyubin Osaka
Sat 08 Jul: SC Tottori 1-3 Yokogawa Musashino

1 Honda FC 40 (+17)
2 Sagawa Kyubin Osaka 39 (+21)
3 Yokogawa Musashino 36 (+11)
4 YKK AP 35 (+22)
5 Rosso Kumamoto 34 (+14)
6 Tochigi SC 34 (+13)
7 Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo 30 (+26)
8 Alo's Hokuriku 29 (+14)
9 Sony Sendai 29 (+6)
10 SC Tottori 22 (+4)
11 Arte Takasaki 22 (-6)
12 JEF Club 16 (-8)
13 Sagawa Printing 16 (-17)
14 FC Kariya 15 (-17)
15 FC Ryukyu 10 (-13)
16 Honda Lock 9 (-32)
17 Mitsubishi Mizushima 9 (-32)
18 Ryutsu Keizai University 8 (-23)

08 Jul 06 - Two-goal Sony Sendai hero, Junpei Murata

Two-goal Sony Sendai hero, Junpei Murata
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