Thursday, 26 April 2018

J League History: 1997

The year 1997 marked a watershed for the J.League. Attendance was beginning to drop off as the J.League "fad" disappeared. Although true, hardcore fans had become increasingly loyal and fanatical about their teams -- especially in the case of clubs like Urawa Reds,. Kashima Antlers, Shimizu S-Pulse and the two Yokohama teams -- the crowds of trendy young people melted away, leaving only those who really cared about football. In some ways, this was a healthy development, but it had some severe negative effects, especially for clubs that could not maintain a large gate. Loss of ticket revenues forced teams to cut back on expenses, and this mainly meant dropping overly expensive foreign players. A few teams even got themselves into a financial bind, as we will discuss later.

J.League 1997, First Stage

Rank Team W L Pts GF GA G Dif.
90 ET PK
1 Kashima Antlers 12 0 1 3 37 32 15 17
2 Yokohama Flugels 11 1 0 4 35 35 16 19
3 Kashiwa Reysol 10 1 0 5 32 34 18 16
4 Bellmare Hiratsuka 8 2 0 6 28 25 20 5
5 Yokohama Marinos 7 3 1 5 28 31 31 0
6 Jubilo Iwata 8 1 0 7 26 32 21 11
7 Shimizu S-Pulse 7 2 0 7 25 25 24 1
8 Gamba Osaka 8 0 0 8 24 28 23 5
9 Urawa Reds 6 1 1 8 21 25 24 1
10 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 6 1 1 8 21 22 23 -1
11 Cerezo Osaka 6 0 1 9 19 21 26 -5
12 Nagoya Grampus 6 0 0 10 18 18 24 -6
13 Kyoto Purple Sanga 6 0 0 10 18 19 32 -13
14 Vissel Kobe 5 1 0 10 17 24 34 -10
15 JEF United Ichihara 3 2 0 11 13 21 34 -13
16 Verdy Kawasaki 2 2 0 12 10 16 27 -11
17 Avispa Fukuoka 3 0 0 13 9 11 27 -16
Scoring: Win in regulation=3 pts Win in extra time: 2 pts Win by PKs:1 pt

J.League 1997 Second Stage

Rank Team W L Pts GF GA G Dif.
90 ET PK
1 Jubilo Iwata 12 2 0 2 40 40 14 26
2 Gamba Osaka 10 2 0 4 34 38 23 15
3 Yokohama Marinos 8 4 0 4 32 42 28 14
4 Kashima Antlers 9 2 0 5 31 46 23 23
5 Nagoya Grampus 10 0 0 6 30 23 24 -1
6 Shimizu S-Pulse 9 1 0 6 29 27 16 11
7 Urawa Reds 8 1 0 7 26 26 21 5
8 Cerezo Osaka 7 1 1 7 24 32 30 2
9 Bellmare Hiratsuka 6 1 1 8 21 30 32 -2
10 Kashiwa Reysol 6 1 0 9 20 29 31 -2
11 Yokohama Flugels 5 1 1 9 18 23 27 -4
12 Verdy Kawasaki 4 2 0 10 16 22 38 -16
13 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5 0 0 11 15 21 27 -6
14 JEF United Ichihara 3 3 0 10 15 22 32 -10
15 Avispa Fukuoka 3 0 1 12 10 18 31 -13
16 Kyoto Purple Sanga 3 0 0 13 9 21 38 -17
17 Vissel Kobe 1 2 0 13 7 19 44 -25
Scoring: Win in regulation=3 pts Win in extra time: 2 pts Win by PKs:1 pt

 

Just one team joined the J.League in 1997 -- Vissel Kobe. There were already clear signs that the league was trying to grow too fast, and concerns rose about the risk that a "fair-weather team" would hurriedly slap together a group of players, earn admission to the league, and then collapse spectacularly, bringing shame upon the entire organization. The J.League started to set more exacting criteria for the teams wanting to join, and taking steps to mandate the financial health of member teams. These measures would lead to a complete restructuring after the 1998 season.

 

. . . but that is getting a bit ahead of the story. The main changes implemented in 1997 were a reversion to the First Stage - Second Stage format with a championship playoff at the end of the year. From 1997 through 2005, when the two-stage format was finally abandoned, each stage would consist of just a single round robin (16 matches in 1997). Teams that played at home during the first stage would play the same opponent away during the second stage. The Nabisco (league) Cup was adopted as a permanent feature of the campaign, with matches played on many Wednesday nights when there were no regular league fixtures. A majority of the league matches were played on Saturday.

 

Another rule change was implemented to try to address continued complaints about the scoring system. Teams that won a match in regulation time received a full three points, teams that won in overtime, by scoring a so-called "golden goal" received two points, and those that won on PKs would get just one point. This 3-2-1 scoring system became fairly popular, and provided a strong incentive for teams to play positive, offence-oriented football. This 3-2-1 point system would become the standard scoring system for J-League play over the next seven years.

 

In the first half of the season, 1996 champions Kashima Antlers came storming out of the gate to take a dominant lead. Although the exciting Yokohama Flugels would chase them towards the end of the season, the Antlers stamped their dominance on the league in the first stage. However, the team was entering a period of transition between generations, as veterans and rookies started to clash somewhat. In the second half of the year Jubilo Iwata emerged as a top contender, and they would become the Antlers' greatest rivals for the next five or six years.

 

As a taste of things to come, the two teams played one of the most exciting championship series ever, with the first match decided 3 - 2 on an extra time goal by little-used substitute Nobuhisa Shimizu. In the second leg, the two teams played each other to a scoreless draw over the full 90 minutes of regulation time and most of two 20-minute overtime periods, but as the clock wound down, Jubilo's ace striker Masashi Nakayama scored a "golden goal" that sent Jubilo to victory in a thrilling win for the newcomers and a heartbreaking defeat for the Antlers. The intense rivalry between these two teams would define the J.League for the rest of the decade.


Championship Series

December 6 Jubilo Iwata 3 - 2 Kashima Antlers
0 min  Masashi Nakayama
46min Masashi Nakayama
119 min Nobuhisa Shimizu
. 62 min Bismarck
88 min Mazinho
December 13 Jubilo Iwata 1 - 0 Kashima Antlers
126 min Masashi Nakayama . .

 

Scoring Leaders

25 Patrick Mboma Gamba Osaka
23 Edilson Kashiwa Reysol
22 Mazinho Kashima Antlers
22 Ahihiro Nagashima Vissel Kobe
21 Masahiro Fukuda Urawa Reds
21 Julio Salinas Yokohama Marinos
20 Bauvel Yokohama Flugels
18 1Wagner Lopes Bellmare Hiratsuka
18 Masashi Nakayama Jubilo Iwata

 

J.League Awards

MVP Carlos Dunga Jubilo Iwata
Rookie of the Year Atsushi Yanagisawa Kashima Antlers
Golden Boot Patrick Mboma Gamba Osaka
Coach of the Year Joao Carlos Kashima Antlers

Best Eleven

GK Tomoaki Ogami Jubilo Iwata
DF Yutaka Akita Kashima Antlers
Masami Iihara Yokohama Marinos
Naoki Soma Kashima Antlers
MF Carlos Dunga Jubilo Iwata
Hidetoshi Nakata Bellmare Hiratsuka
Hiroshi Nanami Jubilo Iwata
Bismarck Kashima Antlers
Motohiro Yamaguchi Yokohama Flugels
FW Patrick Mboma Gamba Osaka
Masashi Nakayama Jubilo Iwata