Here are eight facts about Japanese football that you maybe didn’t know.
- 11-month league
Football is a summer sport in Japan and football matches take place during 11 months of the year. They usually begin in late February and end in early December in order to prevent football matches occurring during the harshest months in winter.
- Second-best in East Asia
Japan 1 League is considered the second-best division (after the Chinese Super League) in the East Asia and placed ahead of the top-flight of South Korea.
- Their own Champions League
Three teams of Japan are competing in the 2018 AFC Champions League, pitching them against the other teams from Uzbekistan and Syria to Australia and the Philippines. The representatives of Japan are Cerezo Osaka, Kawasaki Frontale, and Kashima Antlers, who faced Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup.
- Reigning champions
The winner of the 2017 AFC Champions League came from Japan: the club Urawa Red Diamonds. They won Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabian for the final.
- Trophy opportunities
Besides the J1 League, there are two other chances for glory in the League Cup and the Emperor’s Cup. The League Cup is only for the top-flight clubs while the Emperor’s Cup is more prestigious affair. Amateur teams join in the tournament starting in September when the J1 clubs come in at the fourth round. The final takes place on January 1st and the winners claim a spot in the AFC Champions League.
- Company for Torres and Iniesta
Other Spanish players who run their trade in Japan are Juanma Delgado and Jairo Morillas.
- The pioneers
Julio Salinas was the first Spaniard player in J1 League since signing to play for Yokohama Marinos in 1997. Txiki Begiristain followed after to finish his playing football career with Urawa Red Diamonds.
- Brazilian influence
More than 30 Brazilian players are involved in the 2018 J1 League, a higher number than that of Thai or South Korean footballers. One famous face to European fans is the former Brazilian international striker Jo.