Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Team Profile - Sagawa Kyubin SC

Sagawa Kyubin is Japan's biggest parcel delivery service and, as you might expect, a significant percentage of their package-handling workers and delivery drivers tend to be young, physically active males. It is therefore no surprise that Sagawa Kyubin have a long history of fielding teams in a variety of different sports, usually made up of men working out of the same delivery centre.

Within the Japanese non-league football pyramid there are a good many Sagawa Kyubin teams across the country, but the flagship side are Sagawa Kyubin SC. Based in Moriyama in Shiga prefecture, the club were formed in early 2007 as the result of a merger between the Sagawa Kyubin Osaka and Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo teams that had in recent seasons played in the JFL.

The Osaka team’s history dated back to 1965, when their predecessor club the Hokusetsu Football Group was formed. Over the next 25 years or so, Hokusetsu participated in the Osaka Prefectural League, but in 1989 were taken in as the club of the Osaka College of Physical Education.

Despite being a students' team, they continued outside the college football set-up and in 1997 changed their status once again to compete in the Kansai League under the auspices of Sagawa Kyubin Osaka. Indeed, they became a powerful concern in the Regional competition - in the five years from 1997, Sagawa Osaka were Kansai champions three times and in 2001 were promoted to the JFL.

Until the merger with Tokyo, the club were mostly solid mid-table performers rather than spectacular members of Japan's non-league elite, their most successful campaign coming in 2006 when they finished third. Just above them, however - in a remarkable season for the company - were Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo, a side whose history had two distinct elements.

In 1991, footballers from several of the company's teams around the capital got together to form a more competitive club, drawing employees from all over the greater Tokyo area. Elsewhere, a couple of years later some ex-players from the ANA Yokohama and Yokohama Flugels clubs began a team called Tokyo Fulie and in the late 90s, Fulie and Sagawa Kyubin merged under the cumbersome moniker of, yes, Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo Fulie SC.

Sagawa Tokyo had until then played in the lower reaches of the Tokyo Prefectural League, but at the end of 1999 the combined side gained promotion to the Kanto League. This they duly won at the first attempt and in 2001, having got through the Regional League Championship Winners' Play-off, the more manageably-named Sagawa Kyubin SC lined up in the JFL. That same year, they also notched up arguably the greatest upset in the history of the Emperor's Cup, when they thrashed J1 giants Nagoya Grampus 8 4-0.

With the Osaka club reaching the JFL a year later, Sagawa Kyubin SC reverted to using the Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo name and continued to compete with the likes of Honda FC in the upper reaches of the division. 2006 was a particularly good year, as top scorer Tetsuya Okubo’s contribution in particular enabled the club to win seventeen of the last twenty matches.

Okubo moved on to Kashiwa Reysol in the close season, but fifteen of his former team-mates joined sixteen ex-Osaka colleagues to form the Sagawa Kyubin SC squad. Masahi Nakaguchi - previously in charge at Osaka - will aim to continue the positive results achieved in 2006, although it is unclear where this may eventually lead. The parent company have a history of transferring the management of their football clubs over to grassroots NPOs and it is not outside the realms of possibility that, over time, Sagawa Kyubin SC will evolve into a J-League franchise in Shiga.

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