Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Team Profile - Alo's Hokuriku

Toyama prefecture, on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu, is in a confused position as far as the development of a J-League team in the area is concerned. The area is certainly big enough to support a professional side, but while in other parts of Japan, local ambitions are focused upon one particular club aiming for a place among the elite of the country’s club football, Toyama's position at present is somewhat unfocused.

A particularly long bet, for example, might be for Valiente Toyama – promoted at the end of 2006 to the Hokushinetsu League Division 1 - while arguably the strongest local non-league side over the last few seasons have been YKK AP, whose parent company have consistently indicated that they have no wish to finance a professional club.

All of which leaves the most likely Toyama candidates for future J-League membership as YKK AP’s deadly rivals Alo's Hokuriku, formed in 1990 under the snappy name of their own parent company, Hokuriku Electric Power. The club quickly became established in the Hokushinetsu League and in 1996 came close to their first title win, missing out only on goal difference to Albireo Niigata - forerunners, of course, to current J1 side Albirex. In the same year, the decision was also taken to change the team's moniker to the rather friendlier Alo's Hokuriku, a corrupted reference to the antelopes which live in the nearby mountains.

Two years later, Alo's pipped YKK to their first Hokushinetsu League title, but failed to make it past the Regional League Championship Winners' Play-off, losing out to Hitachi Shimizu and Hokkaido Electric Power. In 1999, though, they were not to be denied when - despite finishing runners-up to YKK in their Regional League - they nevertheless gained a place in the Play-offs. Once there, the team won all six fixtures, including a revenge match against Hokkaido Electric Power in the First Round, to battle their way through to the top tier of the non-league game in Japan.

In all honesty the club have not exactly set the JFL alight since gaining promotion, but they have in recent seasons been showing signs of improvement. 2005 saw a blistering series of nine wins and two draws in the last eleven matches saw them finish the year with a bang. Indeed, halfway through this run, a crowd in excess of 10,000 fans at Toyama Stadium witnessed Alo's put in a magnificent performance against J1 giants Nagoya Grampus 8 in the Emperor's Cup, going down only 1-0 to a goal early in the second half.

2006 was something of a downturn, when after a good start the team underwent a miserable mid-season period of only three wins in fifteen. Even so, they held on to a top-half-of-the-table finish and remained on the distant fringes of the promotion race throughout the campaign. In Yoshio Kitagawa, Alo’s also boasted one of the top scorers in the division: a foil to a particularly strong defence.

Tentative discussions instigated by the Toyama FA into the possibility of creating a “Toyama United” J-League candidate via a merger between Alo’s and YKK have never come to anything - but Alo's have gradually turned themselves into a more competitive side, without yet having issued any declaration of intent as regards making an immediate bid for a place in the J-League. A continuation of the better results of the last couple of years could see the development of more local momentum in terms of business and fan support, and it therefore remains a possibility that the club will make a serious attempt to gain promotion from the JFL in the next few seasons.

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