Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Team Profile - FC Gifu

Formed in April 2001, FC Gifu have incorporated within their structure players from a range of educational institutions within their home prefecture, but were based in particular upon a team from Gifu Keizai University. With support from a range of sponsors and from the Prefectural FA, the club were established specifically to bring J-League football to the area and have made rapid progress following their entry into the Gifu Prefectural League.

After a promising debut season in 2001, FC Gifu took the league title with a 100% record in both of the next two years, finally gaining promotion to Division 2 of the Tokai League for 2004. Regional football immediately put the club into competition with much more experienced sides like Maruyasu Industries - but in a hard-fought season they were nevertheless disappointed to finish third, missing out on promotion to Nagoya Club only by dint of a slightly inferior goal difference.

2005 therefore was a key stage in the development of FC Gifu as an ambitious organisation with its sights set on the professional game. After the failure of the previous year, coach Masayuki Katsuno was allowed to bring in former Nagoya Grampus 8 forward and one-time international Yasuyuki Moriyama as the club aimed for promotion to Division 1.

It turned into a thrilling season’s football, a three-way battle for the two promotion spots between Gifu, Sagawa Kyubin Chukyo and the Shizuoka prefectural teachers’ team, Fuyo Club. By the time the last round of fixtures arrived in early October, Sagawa were on top with 27 points, while Fuyo and Gifu were level on 26. Sensationally, Gifu travelled to bottom-placed Toyota Industries and handed out a 7-0 thrashing to scrape into the top flight by the narrowest of margins.

The challenge of Division 1 in 2006 saw Katsuno shunted upstairs to the role of General Manager, another ex-international coming in to take over as coach in the form of Tetsuya Totsuka. Totsuka’s squad was packed with top-level experience and it was clear from the start that Gifu would provide strong opposition for regional giants Shizuoka FC in the fight to gain a place in the JFL.

And so it proved, as the Greens claimed a draw in the pouring rain at Shizuoka on the opening day. Midway through the year, goals from Hiromi Kojima and former Oita Trinita defender Tetsuya Ito gave Gifu a 2-0 win over their deadly rivals to move them three points clear at the top of the table and after that, it was pretty much plain sailing. The presence of a crowd in excess of 12,000 at the match against Yazaki Valente was one highlight, but the championship itself was confirmed with one game still remaining.

Having risen from Prefectural football to the threshold of competition on a national stage, FC Gifu were next faced with the Regional League Championship Winners’ Play-off tournament and a repeat of their clashes with Shizuoka, alongside whom they were drawn in the First Round. But Totsuka and his team emerged victorious from the group, having hammered FC Mi-o Biwako Kusatsu from Kansai in the decider to confirm a place in the Final Stage.

A shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of TDK in the opening match put Gifu up against it, but a second-place finish was still enough to secure an additional Play-off with Honda Lock, the JFL’s bottom side. Young striker Atsushi Katagiri played the starring role by scoring three goals in an 8-1 aggregate win and after six seasons, the Greens were in the JFL and a step closer to achieving their ambition.

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