Wednesday, 22 May 2024


Jubilo Iwata got its start as the club team of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., established in 1972. This makes Jubilo about two decades younger than the other predominant J.League clubs -- Yokohama Marinos, Kashima Antlers, Gamba Osaka and Tokyo Verdy. But the team's climb to prominence was very rapid. In 1978, Yamaha entered the JSL second division, and opened its current home stadium at Higashiyama, Shizuoka (which continues to be known as "Yamaha Stadium"). The very next year the team was promoted to the first division. Between 1982 and 1989 the club won several league or league cup titles, yet a poor season in 1991 meant that Yamaha failed to be included in the ten teams preparing to form the new J.League. Despite this disappointment, the team established itself as a separate organisation -- Yamaha Football Club Ltd., and changed its name to Jubilo Iwata, selecting a name which means "delight" in Spanish. The team logo and mascot feature the black paradise flycatcher, a bird viewed in Japan as representing light, and good luck.

During the 1990s, Jubilo Iwata established itself as one of the top teams in the J.League. For a brief period, their record of success and collection of titles even rivalled that of the Kashima Antlers. In the stretch between 1996 and 1999, these two teams played some brilliant matches for both league and cup titles, and came to be viewed as the two predominant teams in the League. However, while the Antlers managed to maintain a prominent position during the J.League's second decade, Jubilo has suffered a serious collapse.

In 1994, following a second-place finish in the JFL, Jubilo was promoted to the J.League. Jubilo's development as one of the most successful J.League franchises owes a great deal to two individual -- Dutchman Hans Ooft and Brazil midfielder Carlos Dunga. Ooft, a former coach of the Japanese national team, took over the reins at Jubilo in 1994. The following year Ooft signed Dunga, a former captain of Brazil, to act as his on-field general and the core of the new team. Between them, Ooft and Dunga were able to mold a group of players into into one of the most well-coordinated teams in the league. Even after the two left, Jubilo has continued to perform at a very high level despite the fact that some commentators are less than impressed by the skills of individual players. Jubilo's record in league and cup championships pretty much speaks for itself.

1982 Championship of the JSL 2nd Division
1987 Championship of JSL 1st Division
1989 Runner-up in JSL Cup
Runner-up in 69th Emperor's Cup
1990 Runner-up in Konica Cup Challenge '92
1992 Championship of the JFL's 1st season
1993 2nd in JFL (promoted to J.League)
1994 Runner-up in Yamazaki Nabisco Cup
1997 Champion of J.League 2nd Stage
Runner-up in Yamazaki Nabisco Cup
Winner of J.League Championship
1998 Champion of Yamazaki Nabisco Cup
Champion of J.League 1st Stage
Runner-up in J.League Championship
1999 Winner of Asian Club Championship 1998-99
Champion of J.League 1st Stage
Winner of 5th Asian Super Cup
Winner of J.League Championship
2000 Runner-up, Asian Club Championship
2001 Runner-up, Asian Club Championship
Champion of J.League 1st Stage
2002 Champion of J.League 1st Stage
Champion of J.League 2nd Stage
Uncontested J.League Champions

Jubilo has generated a number of talented midfielders, including not only Dunga but also such national team members as Hiroshi Nanami, Daisuke Oku and Toshiya Fujita. However, the team has also been notable for its deadly forwards. Masashi "Gon" Nakayama has often been criticised for his poor ball skills, and it is true that his first touch of the ball is still rather suspect. However, he has an uncanny ability to find open space and get off a shot. This skill, and his excellent control in the air, have won him the J.League scoring title on two occasions. Following in Nakayama's footsteps is Naohiro Takahara, who scored six goals in Japan's 2000 Asian Cup campaign emerged as one of the country's best strikers, though he subsequently moved overseas, first to Argentina and then to the Bundesliga.

Following the departure of Takakara at the end of 2002, Jubilo began to fade as the veterans who brought the team championships in the 1990s started to age and decline in abilities. Unlike the Antlers, who proactively sold off their aging veterans and started to rebuild in the early 00s, the Jubilo "old boy network" remained entrenched, preventing the younger and arguably more talented players from stepping into the lineup. Jubilo's collapse in the second half of 2004 was of truly catastrophic proportions, and when former Olympic Team coach Masakuni Yamamoto was brought in, there was some hope that he would clean house and set Jubilo on the path to renewed glory.

Yamamoto spent the entire 2005 season and half of 2006 trying to ease Jubilo's veteran players out of the lineup without ever achieving full success. Despite the presence of impressive youngsters like Robert Cullen, Ryoichi Maeda, Yoshiaki Ota, Naoya Kikuchi, Kota Ueda and Sho Naruoka, the old guard were allowed to continue muddling along, and this clearly held the team back. In the middle of the 2006 season the team turned to an "old boy" who was not beholden to the "old-boy network -- former Jubilo player and Brazil NT defender Adilson. Finally, the team was able to make the transition to a new generation, and Jubilo put on a late run of fine form. Though he failed to produce quite the same success in 2007, and eventually took the fall for declining attendances, there were signs that the team might finally make the transition.

But 2008 proved to be a near disaster for the once-proud club. Not only did attendances continue to spiral downward; the team's performance out on the pitch did so as well. The head office must take the majority of the blame, though fickle fans also deserve their share, since they seem more interested in gawking at aging former-pinup boys than in seeing their team regain its competitiveness. After the modest success of an outsider, Adilson, Jubilo started the 2008 season by installing the ultimate of old-boy apparatchiks to run the coaching staff. Atsuchi Uchiyama, a relatively untested individual whose main claim to fame was the fact that he had spent almost every day of his 48 years in Shizuoka Prefecture. To make matters worse a former Jubilo head coach, Masaaki Yanagishita, was installed as his "assistant". Despite all the difficulties the old-boy network had caused in the past, Jubilo reclaimed veteran Hiroshi Nanami, and offered "Grandpa Gon" Nakayama another year on his contract. Though it was bad enough having players like this on the roster, coach Uchiyama insisted on giving them playing time!

By midseason Jubilo were in relegation territory, and management started to panic. Tossing both Uchiyama and Yanagishita overboard, they called in yet another Jubilo "Old Boy", the team's former Dutch coach Hans Ooft. While he failed to really alter the chemistry of this increasingly neurotic team, at least Ooft turned over most of the playing duties to younger stars who had the fitness required to hold their own at the J1 level. Jubilo narrowly escaped the axe at the end of the 2008 season, overcoming Vegalta Sendai in the promotion/relegation playoff. But the close call forced fans of the Blue Budgies to admit a truth that most have been loath to admit. Jubilo has fallen into the ranks of the mediocre, and the bright promise of youth that seemed to hold out hopes for the future is now faded and worn.

The 2009 and 2010 seasons merely served to confirm this sad truth. Jubilo managed to stay clear of the relegation battle, but they never even showed a breif flash of real competitive form. Instead they struggled from week to week, relying on individual skills to keep the team afloat. While Ryoichi Maeda became the first player to win the Golden Boot in almost a decade, claiming that honour in both 2009 and 2010 (the last Japanese scoring king was another Jubilo star, Naohiro Takahara), the strong performances of Maeda and two or three others did little more than highlight how little team chemistry was left in the old squad. While Jubilo was once the J.League's most "elite" team, it is now apparent that their era of dominance has passed, and considering how weak the team's financial position has been in recent season, it could take another decade or more to rebuild.

Over the next few seasons, the Blue Budgies showed a few hints of rejuvenation, with the emergence of some former Jubilo Youth talent in regular positions, Players like Kosuke and Shuto Yamamoto, Hiroki Yamada, Ryohei Yamazaki and Takuya Matsiuura -- all products of the Jubilo Youth system -- boosted the team to around midtable by 2012. However, coaching and front-office management still suffered from the old-boy effect, and even on the pitch, there was sill a visible lack of chemistry between generations. A series of short-tenured coaches were unable to halt the erosion, and in the end, Jubilo finally succumbed to relegation with a 17th-place finish in 2013.

Many once-proud teams use a bout with relegation to fix internal problems, clear out unproductive veterans and rebuild on a young, solid foundation, allowing them to bounce back even stronger. In Jubilo's case, however, the first season in the J2 was an even greater disaster than their relegation year. The coaching responsibilities were handed to former Trinita coach Pericles Chamusca, who may have had the strategic talent to produce results, but whose lack of ties to the old-boy network may have undermined his influence. Iwata also brought back some Jubilo old-boys who had moved to other clubs, appealing for them to "help restore vthe Jubilo legacy." While the talent was there, and they looked like promotion candidates on paper, the reality was very different. The team got off to an appalling start, and by August it was already clear that they would struggle to win promotion.  Desperate for some way to jold the team out of its malaise, the head office turned to one of the most famous Jubilo Old Boys -- former national team midfielder Hiroshi Nanami.

Nanami brought with him the advantage of knowing the old boy network, but his international experience and several years as a football analyst allowed him to recognize the demerits of the Jubilo system, as well as its merits. He used his personal contacts to bring in a lot of veterans, but targeted non-Jubilo talent like Daisuke Matsui, Yasuhito Morishima, Kazumichi Takagi and Taisuke Nakamura as well as former Jubilo veterans like Yoshiaki Ota and Kota Ueda. One of the most important veteran acquisitions was not even Japanese. Jay Bothroyd, whose resume included a single cap for England in addition to almost 15 year at English clubs like Coventry City, Cardiff and Queens' Park Rangers.

Nanami finally managed to paper over the cracks within the Jubilo squad and get the team to play the sort of hard-working, patient buildup for which his generation of Blue Budgies were famous. Their generous service to Bothroyd allowed the big striker to claim the Golden Boot in J2, and led the team back to J1 with a second-place finish. Now that Nanami has pulled Jubilo back from the brink, he faces another, perhaps more difficult challenge: building a new and more truly competitive football team.

Jubilo does still have a decent youth program and access to the skillful youngsters emerging from high schools in Shizuoka, but most of the squad was aging, and unable to carry the weight much longer. Jubilo's key players still had enough talent and experience to be competitive, but by 2019 the club was tottering again, and at midseason management panicked, firing Nanami and setting off a downward spiral that took the team all the way to last place. A quick rebound to the J1 in 2022 raised hopes, but the team was immediately relegated again, and enters 2023 in the second division once more.

As the J.League moves into its next quarter-century, Jubilo remains one of the leading candidates for a return to J1. But only a thorough effort to rebuild can prevent the team from another collapse two or three years down the road. The key lies in developing a more coherent team concept -- not only on the pitch, but throughout every phase of team activity. Without new blood, the team will struggle just to climb above mid-table, and any greater success is at least several years away.

Team Results for 1994-2004

Year Rank Win D L GF GA G.Dif
90 ET PK
1994 (1st) 7 9       13 27 32 -5
1994 (2nd) 7 11       11 29 37 -8
1995 (1st) 5 15   0   11 48 40 8
1995 (2nd) 9 13   1   12 40 37 3
1996 4 20   2   8 53 38 15
1997 (1st) 6 8 1 0   7 32 21 11
1997 (2nd) 1 12 2 0   2 40 14 26
1998 (1st) 1 13 0 0   4 52 18 34
1998 (2nd) 2 13 0 0   4 55 21 34
1999 (1st) 1 10 2   0 3 29 15 14
1999 (2nd) 12 4 1   1 9 23 27 -4
2000 (1st) 5 7 2   0 6 32 25 7
2000 (2nd) 3 10 0   0 5 35 17 18
2001 (1st) 1 9 4   1 1 32 12 +20
2001 (2nd) 2 9 4   0 2 31 14 +17
2002 (1st) 1 9 4   1 1 39 17 +22
2002 (2nd) 1 9 4   0 2 33 13 +20

Team Results for 2005-Present

Year Rank Pts W D L GF GA G.Dif
2003 (1st) 2 31 9 4 2 34 17 +17
2003 (2nd) 3 26 7 5 3 22 17 +5
2004 (1st) 2 34 11 1 3 31 16 +15
2004 (2nd) 13 14 3 5 7 23 28 -5
2005 6 51 14 9 11 51 41 +10
2006 5 58 17 7 10 68 51 +17
2007 9 49 15 4 15 54 55 -1
2008 16 37 10 7 17 40 48 -8
2009 11 41 11 8 15 50 60 -10
2010 11 44 11 11 12 38 49 -11
2011 8 47 13 8 13 53 45 +8
2012 12 46 13 7 14 57 53 +4
2013 17 23 4 11 19 40 56 -16
2014 (J2) 4 67 18 13 11 67 55 +12
2015 (J2) 2 82 24 10 8 72 43 +29
2016 (1st) 8 23 6 5 6 21 23 -2
2016 (2nd) 14 13 2 7 8 16 27 -11
2017 6 58 16 10 8 50 30 +20
2018 16 41 10 11 13 35 48 -13
2019 18 31 8 7 19 29 51 -22
2020 (J2) 6 63 16 15 11 58 47 +11
2021 (J2) 1 91 27 10 5 75 42 +33
2022 18 63 16 15 11 32 57 -25

 Note: Data prior to 2003 is separated from more recent data to reflect the change in the J.League format, to eliminate "Golden Goal" overtime.