Sayonara 2014……

So, the 2014 season is over and done with. FC Gifu finished 17th, which somehow feels slightly anti-climactic given the ups and downs that the season has thrown at us.

Season stats: 

  • League position – 17th
  • Points – 49
  • Wins – 13
  • Draws – 10
  • Defeats – 19
  • Goals for – 54
  • Goals against – 61
  • Top scorer – Nazarit (17 goals)

What went right in 2014:

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  • The attack. Nazarit was revelation in J2 – he is destined for bigger things, I believe. I’ve talked before about how much I like him. He has all you want in a striker: pace, power, positioning and presence. Hot on Naza’s heels has been Hiroaki Namba – scorer of 12 goals. I’m not sure anyone would have predicted this kind of season from the 31 year-old. He seemed re-born in Gifu, buzzing about the field with purpose, and he was visibly enjoying his football. They were both a pleasure to watch this year.
  • Mr Onda, our president. If I had to give a club MVP, president Satoshi Onda would be it. He, and his group of managers, have made so much progress off the field in such a short space of time that it is scarcely believable from this time last year. The promotion that he has presided over has resulted in some incredible results. For example:
  1. The club record crowd
  2. An average attendance almost double last year
  3. A huge increase in public awareness
  4. 8 games with over 10,000 crowds

It really has been a superb effort from the off field team. So much hard work goes into promoting the club, and I really hope Onda and the rest of the PR team take a well earned rest this winter so they can come back, ready to give it both barrels next year.

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  • The supporters. Led by the Vamos Zone residents, Gifu’s support has been fully mobilized in 2014, and it has grown quite a lot too. Most people only see the supporters on matchdays, but they do a lot for the club around the city and around the prefecture. I went with them around Gifu city when they were handing out promotional posters. This was done in their own time, and on a voluntary basis. Such things tend to fly under the radar usually, but I’d like to say a huge thank you and express my admiration for their dedication. The call-leader, the rest of the Brigate and all supporters – GREAT WORK THIS YEAR!!

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What didn’t go according to plan in 2014:

  • Giving away leads. In home games this year against JEF, Giravanz, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Yokohama and Sapporo, Gifu were in the lead in all of them but failed to win any of them. Something has to be done about this in the off-season. Gifu could have easily finished in the top 12 this year if they’d shown more poise and calm when defending a lead. This season, because of the licensing situation, Gifu were never going to challenge for the top six. But the plans are in place off the pitch and if the team can’t match the developments off the pitch and they keep giving away points, it will be highly regrettable.

 

This has been an amazing year for Gifu, on and off the field. Hopefully we can kick on from here.

On a personal level, being involved in the club and observing the players & management at such close quarters has been a privilege. The club and the players that I’ve interacted with (special mention to Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, and absolute gentleman) have made feel so welcome. It has been amazing.

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But it is the supporters that set this club apart. The supporters are the lifeblood of the club, and I feel very humble to be a part of the group. Special mention goes to Gifu Richy, my FC Gifu partner in crime, although he really needs to sort his fashion out! Also, massive respect to the Brigate Mamushi supporters group for making a stand against racism earlier this season.

Even though we finished 17th, it was an incredible season for the club. I hope everyone gets a good rest and comes back refreshed for next year. 今年本当にお疲れ様でした。来年J1に行こう!2015シーズンよろしくお願いします!

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Could another “Golden Oldie” be heading to Gifu?

One of the more interesting sub-plots to Gifu’s last game of the year was the newspaper that linked Kyoto talisman Masashi Oguro, scorer of 26 J2 goals in 2014, to FC Gifu.

Obviously you can’t believe everything you read in the papers, but sports hochi were pretty bold in their claim that Ramos wants Oguro to spearhead the play-off push next year.

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Obviously there are a few things that’ll have to fall into place for this to happen. One would assume Kyoto want to keep Oguro and he’ll have to decide whether he wants to stay in the cultural capital or head to the just as beautiful Nagara riverside. Another piece of the puzzle is the status of Nazarit. I’m certain that there’ll be a lot of interested clubs in both Japan & abroad looking at a 24 year old striker who netted 17 times in his debut season in Japan. If he leaves, I can see a case for Oguro being brought in.

One thing I wouldn’t want to see however, is the stunting of Junki Endo’s development. It is true that Junki can play out wide, but I’d love to see him play on the shoulder if the last defender because his pace will cause so many problems if he given licence to use it.

So, Oguro? Sure, why not? Just as long as Endo, and to certain extent Tomohiro Tanaka, aren’t just shunted aside. To be fair to Ruy Ramos, he has shown a willingness to play youngsters on merit and hopefully that will continue next year, but if Oguro can guarantee 15-20 goals, he’ll be hard to pass up.

Watch this space!!

Kyoto Sanga 0-0 FC Gifu

Somewhat ironically, given Gifu’s relish in conceding goals this year and the fact that the opposition boasted the league’s top scorer, the final game of the year finished in a 0-0 stalemate.

FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi. Masuyama, Mori, Kitani, Sekita, Henik, Miyazawa, Higa, Takachi, Namba, Nazarit

This was your typical, nothing to play for end of season fayre. Sure both sides had some decent chances. Takachi & Naza for Gifu, Oguro (of course) for Sanga but it was just as you would expect an end of season 0-0 draw to look like.  And for that reason I don’t particularly have to go into details.

After the game, Ramos addressed the supporters (800 of whom went to the game, a fantastic turn out) and said that Gifu will be stronger next year. Credit to Ramos, he has come out and faced the supporters in the last two weeks in order to opine on next year.

I’ll do a season wrap up post soon!

FC Gifu 2014 player of the year…….Keiji Takachi

The readers of this blog agreed with the majority of FC Gifu supporters as both sets of voters chose midfielder Keiji Takachi as the 2014 player of the year.

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For the official prize, he received a cool ¥1,000,000. From me, well…I can’t afford that from this NPO, but I can offer my respect and admiration.

Some eyebrows were raised when he was brought in, including mine. I didn’t know much about  him aside from the fact he was left footed and played usually in a left midfield role for Yokohama FC. Given that we already had Atsushi Mio, I presumed was going to play that role, I wondered why we had brought Takachi in.

It became clear in the first two games why. Takachi was superb in the opening games, providing a link between the midfield and new attack pairing of Naza & Namba. He capped off this impressive introduction with what is commonly known as a “Golazzo” against Kataller Toyama – receiving the ball 40 yards out from goal he performed a drag-back which completely took two defenders out of the equation before slaloming into the box and coolly passing the ball past the keeper.

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Since that start, he has embedded himself in the team, and is almost the first name on the teamsheet when fit. He is the de-facto outfield captain when Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and I get the feeling that he is Ramos’ kind of player. An attack-mided player with a keen eye for a pass/through-ball, Takachi has been a beacon of consistency.

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The softly spoken, thoughtful playmaker has thoroughly deserved this accolade and hopefully he stays around for next year to deliver an encore performance.

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Atsushi Mio’s retirement

I’ve already posted about Kosuke Kitani’s retirement from the game, but the announcement of Atsushi Mio’s retirement came a bit late, but also took me a bit by surprise.

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Mio is only 31, but he missed most of this season with a knee ligament injury and he felt he couldn’t put his knee through the rigour of another J.League season. He joined Gifu in the winter of 2012/2013 from Gainare Tottori and proceeded to play a key role in the team during the 2013 season. Often playing on the left wing or in an advanced midfield position, he lacked the top speed to be a really dangerous attacking threat. But his constant energy, allied to experience and his set piece delivery made him a key cog in the machine.

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In all honesty, he probably should have scored more goals given the quality of his left footed deliveries (I’m not certain if he scored for Gifu) but he was a very popular member of the squad and his professionalism was admired by all those inside the Gifu dressing room.

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His career peak was probably at Gainare Tottori where he helped lead them out of the JFL and into J2, before helping them establish themselves as J2 team. A sign of the affection that he is still held in in Tottori came after Gifu beat them 4-3 in 2013. Despite the defeat, Gainare fans shouted for him to come to the home end and gave him a huge ovation, something that visibly moved Atsushi.

What comes next for Mio? I’m not sure, but I dare say a coaching role is on the horizon for him.  He is vastly experienced despite his relatively young age, and has appeared over 300 times across the J.Leagues. It would be a shame for that not to be passed on. I was lucky enough to speak to him in person, shake his hand, say thanks and wish him a very happy retirement.

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美尾選手、本当にお疲れ様でした!

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“Top of Kita-Alps” winners…….FC Gifu!!

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Since last year, FC Gifu, Kataller Toyama & Matsumoto Yamaga have used their league results against each other to determine who is the top team in the central Japan region. This year, the results have gone as follows:

  • FC Gifu 3-0 Kataller Toyama
  • Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 FC Gifu
  • Kataller Toyama 3-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
  • Kataller Toyama 0-0 FC Gifu
  • Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 Kataller Toyama
  • FC Gifu 3-1 Matsumoto Yamaga

That leaves the final Kita-Alps table looking like:

  • 1. FC Gifu – 7pts
  • 2. Matsumoto Yamaga – 6pts
  • 3. Kataller Toyama – 4pts

It isn’t often FC Gifu win things, so we celebrated this yesterday!!

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Unfortunately, with Matsumoto going up and Toyama going down, this won’t take place next year. Hopefully Kataller come straight back up and we can make it a Tokai-Hokuriku tournament with Zweigen Kanazawa & possibly Nagano Parceiro.