Japanese Non-league Football News

Kyu League Preview 2006
The Kyushu League commences over this coming weekend and with the promotion last season of Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu, there is a strong possibility that a new club or two can come and make a challenge for a place on a national stage from one of Japan's footballing hotbeds. JNFN here presents a view of the nine teams participating in this years's competition.

Kaiho Bank SC

One of the smaller clubs in the Kyu League, Kaiho Bank’s players are as one might imagine taken mostly from the staff of a financial institution in their Okinawa base. Following an abortive first appearance above prefectural level in 2000 which saw them pick up just eight points in the season, the club have since become better-established in the Kyu League and a cut above the real minnows. Once again, though, they will find it difficult to feature in the top half of the division - but if Kaiho can manage to finish within a few points of Nippon Steel Oita, 2006 will have been a success.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki

The evocatively-named Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki club dates back as far as 1947, a time when their parent company were instrumental in setting up a number of football teams for their recreation-starved employees at locations across Japan. But Mitsubishi corporate policy generally dictates that playing staff still be required to carry out factory shift work and, despite having been members of the Kyu League almost without interruption for more than two decades, the best performance the club can muster is a couple of third-placed finishes. This year they will most likely be struggling once again, just above the foot of the table.

Nanakuma Tombies

Newly-promoted champions of the Fukuoka Prefectural League, the somewhat mysterious Nanakuma Tombies are facing in 2006 their first-ever season of Regional League football. The team overcame the challenge of Oita's Yabakei FC and Kumamoto Teachers in the play-offs in January to win through to the Kyu League. Their ambition now will be simply to compete with the league's smaller teams - Osumi NIFS United, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki, Okinawa Kariyushi - and try to avoid the drop. Relegation favourites.

New Wave Kitakyushu

New Wave Kitakyushu took on their magnificent name as recently as 2001, when they came out of the Mitsubishi company structure and became a community-based club. As Mitsubishi Chemicals Kurosaki, they were founder members of the Kyu League in 1973 and have won the championship seven times, but despite aiming for a JFL spot have often found themselves crowded out by better-organised and more aggressively-financed clubs. With the likes of former Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Albirex Niigata lynchpin Hiroyoshi Kuwabara on board, however, the 2006 squad has been considerably strengthened and now that Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu have moved on to better and brighter things, New Wave have to be considered as genuine contenders.

Nippon Steel Oita

J-League side Oita Trinita are a well-supported provincial outfit, but flying the flag at non-league level in the city are two-time winners of the Kyu League - and probably the best-organised of the local corporate clubs - Nippon Steel Oita (bizarrely, following on from their first title win in 1985 they were immediately relegated, spent 1987 bouncing back from the Prefectural League and took their second championship the very next year). The test for Nippon Steel in 2006, however, is to remain competitive in the face of the continued development of other clubs aiming for a JFL place, but they could yet cause a surprise or two.

Okinawa Kariyushi

Despite having won the Kyu League in 2002 and 2003, their subsequent narrow failure to reach the JFL sent Kariyushi into a spiral of decline - and the disaster of a second-place finish to Honda Lock in 2004 appeared to have dealt a fatal blow to the club as a going concern. With most of the first-team squad jumping ship to the likes of FC Ryukyu and the main sponsors bailing out just as rapidly, management nevertheless re-grouped prior to the 2005 season and to their credit put together a group of players based on the youth team of a couple of years before. Not surprisingly they struggled to compete, but in the end Kariyushi retained their Kyu League place and will seek to consolidate further this year.

Osumi NIFS United

A team representing the distinctly glamorous-sounding National Institute of Fitness & Sports in Kanoya, Kagoshima prefecture, Osumi NIFS won their local Prefectural League in 2005 and in the promotion play-offs fought past Oroku Club from Okinawa and Miyazaki's mighty Nobeoka City SC to regain the Kyu League place they had lost the previous year. During that single season at Regional level, they had found themselves to be outclassed - at one stage racking up a run of 7-0, 6-2, 6-2 and 7-1 defeats - and will be approaching 2006 with the intention of getting to grips with the higher standard.

V Varen Nagasaki

Formed at the beginning of 2005 out of Nagasaki Prefectural League outfit SC Ariake, V Varen have been set up with the express intention of bringing J-League football to their corner of Western Kyushu. They proved last year to be Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu's nearest challengers, which augurs well for a 2006 promotion challenge. Their squad boasts some JFL experience as well as former Avispa Fukuoka man Takeo Harada, and the fact that they managed to pull a crowd in excess of 6000 for one Kyu League game suggests that they have the infrastructure to make a go of it. Tied in with the fact that their budget has been boosted by 50% to the tune of \90m, V Varen are potential title winners.

Volca Kagoshima

Rather like New Wave Kitakyushu, it has appeared over the last few years that Volca Kagoshima are a club who just keep being overtaken in the race to the JFL. They have long been aiming to play on a higher stage, but it always seems to be someone else's year, as Rosso Kumamoto, Honda Lock, Okinawa Kariyushi and even Profesor Miyazaki have demonstrated in recent seasons. Originally formed as Kumamoto Teachers and as such were founder members of the Kyu League, the momentum sadly seems to have gone from their promotion bid - for Volca's 2006 squad looks capable of a top-half finish, but little more.

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