Japanese Non-league Football News

Tohoku League Team Profile - Nippon Steel Kamaishi
The Nippon Steel Corporation is another example of a company brought about by a corporate merger, in this case that of Yawata Steel and Fuji Steel in 1970. The latter had a history of supporting the playing of football by employees and by the time the merger took place, two different Fuji Steel teams had already participated in the All-Japan Shakaijin competition: Fuji Steel Muroran from Hokkaido and Fuji Steel Kamaishi, both of whom naturally changed their names in line with the new company.

When the Tohoku League commenced in 1977, the Nippon Steel Kamaishi club were well established as one of the best in the north outside of the Japan Soccer League (JSL) and academic institutions, with several further Shakaijin and Emperor’s Cup appearances under their belt. The best result achieved in this early period was when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Kobe were defeated 4-2 in the First Round of the Shakaijin.

It was therefore no surprise when Nippon Steel Kamaishi immediately became the team to beat when their Regional League commenced - in fact, beating the Steel Men was something that no other team managed to do during the first three full seasons of the new competition’s existence, as they notched up three straight title wins.

A 6-1 thrashing in the First Round of the 1977 Regional League Championship Winners’ Play-off competition by Toshiba Horikawa from Kanto appeared to set the tone for those times when Kamaishi did venture out of Tohoku, but in subsequent seasons the club achieved more respectable results – including on one occasion a fine win over company rivals Nippon Steel Muroran – without ever qualifying for the Final Stage.

In 1983, however, financial problems caused Nippon Steel Kamaishi to withdraw from the Tohoku League and they were not to make a re-appearance until the commencement fourteen years later of the Division 2 (North). After three good seasons in the second tier, the club gained promotion back to what had become Division 1 for the 2000 campaign, but the days of success were long gone and since that time Nippon Steel have struggled to hold on to their status.

Relegation was avoided by the narrowest possible margin in 2006, as TDK’s elevation to the JFL meant a change in the rules to ensure that an appropriate number of teams remained in the Tohoku League. The Steel Men - who had finished bottom of the table – therefore avoided automatic relegation and instead faced a Play-off against ambitious Division 2 side FC Akita Cambiare, which they scraped through by the narrowest of margins to remain in the top flight.

2007: One of these seasons, Nippon Steel Kamaishi have either to improve or go down to Division 2. There’s no obvious sign that they can do the former, so does relegation beckon this year?

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