May 14, 2023

J.League Football for a New Generation

Today, the J.League marked its 30th anniversary with a dazzling display of prematch extravaganza and on-field antics that hearkens back to the PR-driven glory days of 1993. The precious memories that J.League football has given me over those three decades are enough to fill a book [Literally. I have 350+ pages worth of "manuscript" on my PC at this very moment... ]. I fell in love with The Beautiful Game before I even learned about girls. But it was not until I moved to Japan ... and witnessed the birth of a pure, positive, joy-inducing and as-innocent-as-possible-in-this-day-and-age football league ... that I began devoting my every spare minute to sharing the joy of J.League football with anyone who would pay attention.

To that small handful of you who actually read yesterday's match reports: that long rambling navelgaze is exactly the sort of thing that I used to write and publish every single week, on The Rising Sun News. Back then, it was impossible for most people to watch J.League matches or even highlights. Those who discovered Japan's unique and uniquely addictive take of The Beautiful Game were willing to go to extremes in order to learn more.

I do not flatter myself, to think that I am some sort of footie-following Hemingway [If I was, my 350-page manuscript might have more than one reader]. The articles I wrote were always for a small and specialised audience. But I did my very best over a fiften-year run with the RSN ... and then a few years of off-and-on coverage here, on J.Soccer ... to share with people the emotional rollercoasterride that the J.League offers to its most faithful fans.

The world today bears little resemblance to the one that witnessed the birth of the J.League. And that is true for far more than football. Thirty-two years ago [as noted in yesterday's article, the J.League as an entity was actually formed in early 1992, not mid-1993], Japan had no players in the top leagues of Europe. There were no professional teams in the country. The Japan National Team had never taken part in a World Cup, and indeed, had not even taken part in an Asian Cup. The first Asian Cup campaign came in 1992, when Japan were the hosts and the champions. That victory - by a team that had yet to adopt the "Samurai Blue" name and colors - was instrumental in giving the J.League a high-profile launchpad.

Today Japan has 60 professional teams, playing in the J.League's three-tiered pyramid, as well as a vibrant amateur pyramid and the semi-professional JFL, which serves as an incubator for new teams that want to go professional and join the J.League. Japan has qualified for every World Cup since 1998, and in the last two campaigns the Samurai Blue have come agonizingly close to reaching the quarterfinals. Japanese players can be found in practically every league in Europe, where their technical artistry is valued only a bit less than their reputation for hard work and constant activity.

But the world has changed in a lot of other ways, as well. This is the era of instant smartphonescreen highlights, clickbait headlines, and "TLDR". Nobody has time for the sort of in-depth, opinionated analyses of each match that I used to provide on The Rising Sun News. That was true even back in 2016, when the Rising Sun set for the last time. It is even more true today, when there are so many other, more-easily-digested sources of news and opinion about the J.League. You have only to look at the hit counter of yesterday's article to understand that The Rising Sun News -- at least in the form it existed for the J.League's first two decades -- will never rise again.

And yet ... the ongoing traffic which J.Soccer receives even two years after Alan and I stopped making regular updates, tells me that there is still an appetite for J.League related content. Alan, Lionel Piguet and I have recently begun discussing what we could do to revive the website, and use it to provide the sort of content that J.League fans are looking for in this modern football world.

If you are a content creator, a graphics geek, a kit collector, or even just a person with a keen interest in Japanese football who wants to help us spread the J.League love worldwide ... please contact us at either the JSoccer twitter channel, JSoccer's Facebook page, or the old Rising Sun News page on Facebook. You can even have a big impact on our visibility and "algorithm presence" by sharing this link, and yesterday's "Thirty-Year Throwback" article, on your own Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, LinkedIn or Truth Social account. In weeks to come we hope to provide new content, photojournals, news blurbs, pre-match prognostications and other content.

So please spread the word, and if you have caught the J.League bug like the rest of us, please get involved. Let's spread the joy of Japan's Beautiful Game worldwide!

By the way, here are the results of Sunday's J1 contests:

  2 - 0  

  0 - 1  

 2 - 1  

0 - 0  

 3 - 1  

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