Saturday, 20 January 2018

J League History: 2002

The 2002 season was a historic one for the J.League, and for Japanese football in general. Not only did it mark the tenth anniversary of the League's creation (though the first championship campaign was played a year later, in 1993), it also was the year in which world football came to Japan and Korea, for the 2002 World Cup. The big event itself went off beautifully, with big crowds, a festive atmosphere, plenty of excitement on trhe field, and best of all, a respectable performance by the national team. This success brought Japan a higher profile in the footballing world, and also helped several players make their way to Europe.

J.League 2002, First Stage

. Team Pts GP W (90/ET) D L GDif GF GA
1 Jubilo Iwata 36 15 13 (9-4) 1 1 +22 39 17
2 Yokohama Marinos 33 15 11 (8-3) 3 1 +17 28 11
3 Nagoya Grampus 29 15 10 (9-1) 0 5 +10 28 18
4 Gamba Osaka 27 15 9 (8-1) 1 5 +16 35 19
5 Kashima Antlers 27 15 9 (9-0) 0 6 +3 21 18
6 Kyoto Purple Sanga 24 15 9 (5-4) 1 5 +8 26 18
7 Shimizu S-Pulse 24 15 8 (5-3) 3 4 -2 17 19
8 JEF United Ichihara 23 15 7 (6-1) 3 5 -1 22 23
9 Vegalta Sendai 20 15 7 (6-1) 0 8 -4 23 27
10 FC Tokyo 17 15 5 (5-0) 2 8 -4 23 27
11 Urawa Reds 14 15 5 (3-2) 1 9 -3 21 24
12 Tokyo Verdy 13 15 5 (2-3) 1 9 -9 15 24
13 Vissel Kobe 12 15 4 (3-1) 1 10 -10 12 22
14 Kashiwa Reysol 11 15 4 (3-1) 0 11 -11 20 31
15 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 10 15 3 (3-0) 1 11 -12 14 26
16 Consadole Sapporo 6 15 2 (2-0) 0 13 -20 15 35
Scoring: Win in regulation time=3pts Win in extra time=2pts Draw=1pt Loss =0

J.League 2002, Second Stage

. Team Pts GP W (90/ET) D L GDif GF GA
1 Jubilo Iwata 35 15 13 (9-4) 0 2 +20 33 13
2 Gamba Osaka 27 15 10 (7-3) 0 5 +11 24 13
3 Kashima Antlers 26 15 9 (8-1) 0 6 +4 25 21
4 Tokyo Verdy 24 15 8 (6-2) 2 5 +7 26 19
5 FC Tokyo 22 15 8 (6-2) 0 7 +1 20 19
6 Yokohama Marinos 22 15 8 (5-3) 1 6 +0 16 16
7 Kyoto Purple Sanga 22 15 8 (6-2) 0 7 -6 18 24
8 Urawa Reds 21 15 8 (4-4) 1 6 +6 20 14
9 Kashiwa Reysol 21 15 6 (6-0) 3 6 +1 18 17
10 Vissel Kobe 19 15 6 (5-1) 2 7 -1 21 22
11 JEF United Ichihara 18 15 6 (6-0) 0 9 -3 16 19
12 Shimizu S-Pulse 17 15 6 (5-1) 0 9 -8 16 24
13 Nagoya Grampus 16 15 5 (5-0) 1 9 -2 21 23
14 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 16 15 5 (4-1) 2 8 -3 18 21
15 Vegalta Sendai 12 15 4 (3-1) 1 10 -13 17 30
16 Consadole Sapporo 9 15 3 (2-1) 1 11 -14 15 29
Scoring: Win in regulation time=3pts Win in extra time=2pts Draw=1pt Loss =0

The league itself enjoyed a resurgence in fan interest, both in the J1 and J2 divisions. Part of this was a spill-over effect from the World Cup, as many people who had not attended J.League matches previously decided to take in a J.League match to see what all the excitement was about. But this was only a part of the reason. There were also signs that the J.League was gaining popularity in its own right. Devoted fans attend matches to see their favourite J.League teams, quite apart from any interest they might have in the national team. As a result, the league enjoyed attendance levels that have not been seen since the boom years of 1994 or 95.

 

During the first stage, as would be the case throughout the season, the big story was the emergence of young players and new clubs that had not been contenders in the past. In addition to traditional powers like Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama Marinos, teams like Gamba Osaka, Nagoya Grampus, and even Kyoto Purple Sanga battled at the top of the table for much of the stage.

 

The Marinos, led by playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura and one of the most formidable defences in the league, were quick out of the gate and seemed to be headed for a first-stage victory when the League broke for two months, to accomodate preparations for the World Cup. Kyoto Purple Sanga, led by coach Gert Engels and energized by the play of a number of exciting and promising youngsters such as Daisuke Matsui and Park Ji-Sung, were close behind, as were traditional powers Jubilo and Kashima Antlers.

 

But following the World Cup, Nakamura was whisked away to Serie A by Reggina, leaving the Marinos without a real playmaker at the center of their offence. In the final five matches of the season, Yokohama went into a tailspin, tumbling out of the top slot and eventually finishing second to the steady consistency of a veteran Jubilo Iwata team.

 

The second stage was somewhat anticlimactic. Once again, the theme of the year seemed to be the emergence of young players at teams like Purple Sanga, FC Tokyo, Tokyo Verdy and Urawa Reds. However, after coming back from a deficit to capture the first stage, Jubilo Iwata seemed to be on a mission to secure the second stage crown as well. By winning both stages, Jubilo could avoid the possibility of another heartbreaking loss in the championship playoff series, as happened to them in 2001.

 

With Naohiro Takahara enjoying the most spectacular run of form in his entire career, Jubilo stormed through the second stage, pulled away from the pack, and effectively wrapped up the J.League championship with several matches to spare. Takahara captured the golden boot with an amazing 26 goals in 29 appearances.

 For the first time in league history. a team had won both stages, and claimed the league crown without the need for a championship playoff. In one sense, this was a good development, since it accurately reflected Jubilo's strength over the entire course of the season. There had been several cases in previous years where a team made a late sharge to win the second stage, and riding that momentum, won the Champinship Playoff even though their opponent had been a better team (in terms of overall wins and losses) over the entire course of the season.

However, this also marked the beginning of the end for the J.League's two-stage format. Suntory, who sponsored the championship series, received very little return for their advertising investment when the series failed to take place. When this happened again, in 2003, Suntory began to withdraw its advertising support, further eroding the justification for a two-stage campaign followed by a championship playoff. In 2005 the two-stage format would be abandoned for a decade, before finally being reinstated in 2015


Scoring Leaders

Rank Player Team Goals (PKs) Shots
1 Naohiro Takahara Jubilo Iwata 26 (2) 79
2 Magrao Gamba Osaka 22 (5) 81
3 Ueslei Nagoya Grampus 20 (2) 115
4 Marcos Vegalta Sendai 18 (2) 79
5 Choi Yong-Soo JEF United Ichihara 16 (7) 74
5 Edmundo Tokyo Verdy 16 (5) 110
5 Masashi Nakayama Jubilo Iwata 16 (12) 79
8 Emerson Urawa Reds 15 (1) 118
8 Amaral FC Tokyo 15 (4) 72
10 Will Yokohama Marinos 14 (2) 97
11 Teruaki Kurobe Kyoto Purple Sanga 13 (3) 74
12 Kota Yoshihara Gamba Osaka 11 (0) 57
13 Yoshiteru Yamashita Vegalta Sendai 10 (0) 50
13 Toshiya Fujita Jubilo Iwata 10 (5) 63
13 Ivica Vastic Nagoya Grampus 10 (1) 60

 

J.League Awards, 2002

MVP Naohiro Takahara Jubilo Iwata
Rookie of the Year Keisuke Tsuboi Urawa Reds
Golden Boot Naohiro Takahara Jubilo Iwata
Coach of the Year Masakazu Suzuki Jubilo Iwata
Fair Play Award Keisuke Tsuboi Urawa Reds
Referee of the Year Masayoshi Okada --

Best Eleven

GK Hitoshi Sogahata Kashima Antlers
DF Naoki Matsuda Yokohama Marinos
Hideto Suzuki Jubilo Iwata
Makoto Tanaka Jubilo Iwata
MF Mitsuo Ogasawara Kashima Antlers
Takashi Fukunishi Jubilo Iwata
Hiroshi Nanami Jubilo Iwata
Tomoya Fujita Jubilo Iwata
FW Emerson Urawa Reds
Masashi Nakayama Jubilo Iwata
Naohiro Takahara Jubilo Iwata