Japanese Non-league Football News

Hokkaido Block League Play-offs
The first stage of the play-offs to decide the final line-ups for the 2007 Regional Leagues commenced over the weekend in Asahikawa in Hokkaido. One of the northernmost cities in Japan hosted a round robin competition between the winners of the four so-called Block Leagues which exist directly under the Hokkaido League itself in the country's pyramid structure. The winners of this mini-tournament go directly into the Hokkaido League 2007 - ironically in place of Asahikawa's own ACSC - while the runners-up play this coming weekend against the next-to-bottom team in the Hokkaido League, Thank FC, for their final opportunity to gain promotion.

This year's participants were Hokushukai from the Northern Block League, runners-up in the very first season of the Hokkaido League in 1978 but out of the top flight since 1988; Eastern champions R Superb Kushiro, something of a yo-yo team over the last few years, having last gained promotion in 2003; for the third year in a row, the Central League's Sapporo Wins; and somewhat surprisingly in the South, Shindo FC from Hakodate, who overcame the challenge of traditional local powerhouses Nippon Steel Muroran and Watanabe Industrial Riverside FC to take their first-ever Block League title.

Two wins in the first two matches on Saturday and Sunday put Hokushukai in the driving seat for the automatic promotion place, while Shindo FC were well out of it following Sunday's 5-1 thumping from Sapporo Wins. Monday then saw Shindo pull off a shock 4-1 win over Hokushukai, who nevertheless still topped the table thanks to R Superb and Sapporo Wins only being able to draw their decider. All of which means that Hokushukai will be playing in the Hokkaido League next year, with Sapporo Wins playing off against Thank FC - although if past form is anything to go by the omens are not good for Wins, who in both 2004 and 2005 fell at precisely this same hurdle.

Sat 07 Oct: Hokushukai 3-0 Sapporo Wins
Sat 07 Oct: R Superb Kushiro 3-2 Shindo FC

Sun 08 Oct: Hokushukai 2-1 R Superb Kushiro
Sun 08 Oct: Sapporo Wins 5-1 Shindo FC

Mon 09 Oct: Shindo FC 4-1 Hokushukai
Mon 09 Oct: R Superb Kushiro 1-1 Sapporo Wins

1 Hokushukai 6 (+1)
2 Sapporo Wins 4 (+1)
3 R Superb Kushiro 4 (-)
4 Shindo FC 3 (-2)

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