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Hokkaido Block League Play-offs

The Block League Play-off Tournament in order to decide promotion to the 2008 Hokkaido League has been taking place over the weekend in the small provincial city of Obihiro. The four participants are simply the winners of the four local Block Leagues that comprise the second tier of club football in Japan's northernmost large island, the format of the competition being a straightforward round-robin group with the top two moving up to next year's Hokkaido League.

As such, they will replace Tokachifairsky Genesis and Hokushukai, both somewhat unlucky to be relegated given that there was only one point dividing the bottom four teams. That said, however, Tokachifairsky always struggled to come to terms with the higher standard of football during their two seasons at Regional level, despite receiving additional sponsorship money from the Genesis Entertainments Company; Hokushukai meanwhile go straight back down after having been promoted just twelve months ago.

The Play-off was won by R Superb Kushiro from the Eastern Block League, a club formed in 1999 and one who last participated in the Hokkaido League itself in 2005. Joining them in the local top flight next year will be the spectacularly named SSS Shefield from the Central Block around Sapporo, who did well to beat off the challenge of the more experienced Nippon Steel Muroran.

Central Block: SSS Shefield SSS シェフィールド
Eastern Block: R Superb Kushiro R . シュペルブ釧路
Northern Block: Kyokushukai 旭蹴会
Southern Block: Nippon Steel Muroran 新日鐵室蘭

Sat 06 Oct: R Superb Kushiro 2-0 Kyokushukai
Sat 06 Oct: SSS Shefield 3-2 Nippon Steel Muroran

Sun 07 Oct: R Superb Kushiro 2-0 Nippon Steel Muroran
Sun 07 Oct: SSS Shefield 8-0 Kyokushukai

Mon 08 Oct: Nippon Steel Muroran 5-2 Kyokushukai
Mon 08 Oct: R Superb Kushiro 6-1 SSS Shefield

1. R Superb Kushiro 9 (+9)
2. SSS Shefield 6 (+4)
3. Nippon Steel Muroran 3 (-)
4. Kyokushukai 0 (-13)
All-Japan Shakaijin
This coming weekend sees the annual All-Japan Shakaijin tournament take place in Oita prefecture. The Shakaijin is essnetially open to teams from below the JFL within the Japanese pyramid system and is therefore populated mostly by Regional League teams from across the country, although this year as usual there are also a small number of Prefectural League sides as well, most notably Hokkaido Block League club Kyokushukai, Sagawa Computer System from the lower reaches of the Tokyo Prefectural League and local powerhouses Tonan SC Gunma.

The competition has grown in importance since the JFA decided a year ago that there would be some connection between the Shakaijin and qualification for the end-of-season Regional League Championship Winners' Play-off, by which promotion to the third-tier JFL is achieved. Naturally, there is a fair degree of crossover between clubs that do well in their league football and qualify for the finals of this knock-out tournament; but essentially, one space in the Play-offs is open to a team that both, (a) fails to qualify for the Play-offs via their Regional League, but also, (b) either wins or finishes runner-up of the Shakaijin.

V Varen Nagasaki are one team who may have cause to be grateful for this additional route to the Play-offs, given that it seems likely that the ambitious Kyushu League side may end up squeezed out of the top two come the end of their league season. The most obvious other examples of clubs that have the ambition and perhaps the quality to compete, but have not done well enough in the regular league season are both from Hokushinetsu. Japan Soccer College have played consistently well over the last few years and won the title in 2006, while Zweigen Kanazawa eliminated both FC Kariya and Rosso Kumamoto from the JFL on their way to the Third Round of this year's Emperor's Cup.

The draw for Saturday's Shakaijin First Round is as follows:

AS Laranja Kyoto - Nippon Steel Oita
Banditonce Kobe - Okinawa Kariyushi
Chukyo University - Zweigen Kanazawa
Fujieda City Hall - Kyokushukai
Furukawa Electrics Chiba - FC Central Chugoku
Honda Lock - FC Mi-o Biwako Kusatsu
Kamatamare Sanuki - Sagawa Computer System
Luminozo Sayama - Japan Soccer College
Maruyasu Industry - FC Machida Zelvia
Matsumoto Yamaga Club - Toyota Motors Hokkaido
Nangoku Kochi - Ain Foods
Norbritz Hokkaido - Yazaki Valente
Takada FC - New Wave Kitakyushu
Tonan SC Gunma - NEC Tokin
V Varen Nagasaki - Toshiba Fuchu
YSCC - Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku
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