Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan Football Association Cooperates with Asia
TASHIMA Kohzo / President, The Japan Football Association

August 24, 2021
History of Japan Football
Japan Football Association (JFA) celebrates its 100th year anniversary this year. Through its long history, it has weathered challenging social situations and natural disasters. Even so, it has a history of never succumbing to hardships in order to keep the light of football burning.

Its first appearance on the world stage was in 1936. Japan’s football team participated in the Berlin Olympic games and made it to the top 8 with a win against Sweden, a formidable opponent. After World War II, however, Japanese football was isolated from the rest of the world. It was not until five years after the end of the war that it was allowed to rejoin Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

It was as late as in 1954 that Japan participated in a World Cup qualifier for the first time, and it didn’t win a single game. Furthermore, Japan was eliminated in the group league when The Asian Games were held in Tokyo. The days went by without a win in Asia, let alone the world.

After a long stagnant period, JFA embarked on strengthening the national team by bringing in Mr. Dettmar Cramer from West Germany in 1960 as the coach. As a result, the team made it to the top 8 in the Tokyo Olympics (1964). The Japan Soccer League (JSL) was established in the following year. Then in the Mexico Olympics in 1968, Japan won its first bronze medal. This accomplishment sparked the popularity of football and the seeds of football were firmly planted with youth soccer teams springing up all over the country.

But the popularity of JSL, the top of Japan’s football world began to wane, and there followed a difficult period when Japan National Team was unable to make it to either the Olympics or the World Cup.

JSL sought to professionalise the league in an effort to boost its popularity and to raise the level of Japanese football. After a five-year preparation period, “J.League”, Japan’s first professional football league was launched in 1993. The J.League became an explosive boom and produced a series of excellent players. In 1993, there was “the Agony of Doha”, where Japan narrowly missed the chance to qualify for the 1994FIFA World Cup USATM as it played to a draw with Iraq. Japan’s national team made its first appearance in the 1998 World Cup FranceTM . Japan co-hosted the FIFA World Cup with Korea Republic in 2002. With these historical events, football came to take root as a culture in Japan.

Currently, Japan ranks top in the FIFA ranking in Asia (as of 27 May 2021). Beginning in September 2021, Japan National Team will face the challenge of the final qualifying round in Asia, hoping to make a seventh consecutive appearance in the FIFA World CupTM.

Returning the Favors to Asian Countries
When Japanese football, which has made unprecedented progress in the world, was isolated from the world in 1950, it was Asian countries such as Burma (current Myanmar), Malaya (current Malaysia), Hong Kong and Singapore that reached out to play with us as opponents.

Presently JFA is conducting various support activities to further the development of football in Asia such as dispatching coaches and accepting overseas teams for camps. The primary purpose is to raise the level of Asian players as a whole and to strengthen their ability, through friendly competition within the region, to play against their powerful European and South American counterparts, and also to repay the Asian countries for the help they extended to us during difficult times in the past.

It was in 1999 when the dispatching of coaches began. Four years after that, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) designated JFA as a model association in view of the rapid and significant growth of the sport achieved in Japan.

Japan’s unique training centre system to develop players and leadership training, called by its acronym “TORESEN” derived from the Japanese-English word “toreiningu sentaa (training centre)”, has been highly praised in Asia. Because of this, the presence of JFA in Asia has been heightened, so much so that JFA has been receiving requests for cooperation from one football association after another in these developing countries.

Apart from dispatching coaches, referee instructors, physiotherapists, and so on, we have received many requests for women coaches in recent years. This is due to the fact that FIFA have invested a huge amount of money in women’s football and supported its development in each country. In this context, Japan’s female football players came into prominence as Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women’s National Team) won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany TM , followed by its women’s teams winning the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa RicaTM and 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup FranceTM.

In September 2021, Asia’s first women’s professional football league, “ WE League”, is scheduled to start and active initiatives are being taken to develop human resources such as organising a licensing system for female coaches and to hold female leadership training programmes. Furthermore, WE League is aiming not only to develop women’s football, but also to promote a society where women work actively.

The status of women in Asia varies from country to country, and there are still many countries where women’s social status and income are low. I strongly believe that WE League’s efforts can contribute to solving these issues in Asia in the near future.

The Power of Sport
In Asia, there are a number of conflict areas as well as countries beset with religious or political issues. Although sports cannot directly solve issues like conflicts, oppression, or poverty, they can foster interactions and exchanges at the grassroots level that politics cannot, just as we witnessed during the 2002 FIFA World Cup held in Japan and Korea Republic. Then, we saw friendships being built between visiting overseas teams and fans at the host cities and camp sites.

Many of the games at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are proceeding without spectators due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although it was unfortunate that there were not many opportunities for people to nurture direct interactions with one another, many people still found hope and joy in the valiant display of top level performances of athletes from around the world.

With a firm belief in the power of football, I will continue to do my best to promote, strengthen and develop football further as a sport. I would like to play my part in promoting football in Asia and international exchange through football.

TASHIMA Kohzo is President of Japan Football Association.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

田嶋 幸三 / 日本サッカー協会会長

2021年 8月 24日















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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japan Football Association Cooperates with Asia