Japanese Non-league Football News

Ikeda Takes Over At Zweigen
In the Hokushinetsu League during 2006, there were supposed to be a good four teams in with a chance of taking the title in one of the closest of the nine Regional Leagues. Japan Soccer College, Matsumoto Yamaga Club and Nagano Elsa all participated in a thrilling championship race - but Zweigen Kanazawa slipped out of contention almost immediately to end up a distant fourth, a disaster for their sponsors and management, given the expense incurred in relaunching the club from their previous Kanazawa SC manifestation.

There has since the end of the season been some evidence of first-team players being allowed to leave the Ishikawa-based side and fans will have been concerned about the stability of the organisation, given the failure in recent years of the likes of Grulla Morioka and most obviously Okinawa Kariyushi. A more positive recent move, however, is the engagement as Zweigen coach of former Matsushita Electric player Shinobu Ikeda, who has previously coached the Japan women's team before moving into club football at Gunma FC Horikoshi. Indeed, he oversaw their promotion from the Kanto League to the JFL in 2003, a promotion which earned him the job of coach at Avispa Fukuoka.

The Hokushinetsu League may be a tough one to win, but it is an even more difficult competition to get out of in an upwards direction, as demonstrated by the poor record of clubs from that part of Japan in the Regional League Championship Winners' Play-off. One of the challenges facing Ikeda for next season, therefore, is to make Zweigen competitive not only at Regional level, but also to improve the overall quality to the point where his new team can look to compete on a national stage.

Mass Departures At Ryukyu

Coach Jorge Yonashiro has already departed the club following FC Ryukyu's very disappointing first year in the JFL - but it's just been announced that no fewer than nine players have followed him out of Okinawa. The biggest name to leave is defender Christiano, a regular in the first team and one of the few members of the squad who more or less managed to live up to the pre-season hopes of Ryukyu's army of fans.

But substitute striker Tatico follows him back to Brazil and Bruno also vacates the squad, which is sure to have a very different look to it in 2007, as the club work towards their ambition of J-League associate membership and a purpose-built 10,000 seater stadium. The other departures in the meantime are goalkeeper Shota Wada; defender Jun Kato, who has experience in Brazil; young midfield player Kenshiro Higa; Sho Tajima, a midfielder formerly with Kyushu League side Kaiho Bank; well-travelled forward Shinji Fujiyoshi; and striker Tomoki Oguri.
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