It has been a long time coming, but finally our resident Asian football devotee TheArabScot is back to provide the second and final part of his instalment on Japanese football and how it rose from relative obscurity to worldwide prominence. Part 1 is here for those who missed out.
We left things in the outset of what was to prove a meteoric rise for Japanese football, and from there we pick up the tale again. The ball was rolling and the changes that had started to take place in the 80s were to soon have a perceptible, far reaching effect and one that would continue to grow in significance. The academies were beginning to produce the talent in numbers, the new professional J league was on its way to becoming an established force in Asian club football and the national team began to click into gear.
The J League
The J league has continued to grow in stature since its inception in 1993. In the beginning many star names such as Zico were brought to the league to pique interest, this model proved successful and is still used as a blueprint and implemented in both East & West Asia; Qatar’s league, the UAE as well as China most recently have adopted the stance of attracting big names who have maybe played their best football in Europe to increase interest and awareness in the game. It certainly seemed to work for Japan (other factors obviously played a major role), so why could it not work elsewhere?
Big names aside, however, the league has continued to produce talented players through academies and export them as we will see in the next section. Japanese teams have also won the Asian Champions League three times since the league was set up, not the strongest record at club level in Asia, but the continued success of the National side cannot be ignored, nor can the constant flow of new talent into the league.