With under a week to go until the start of the season, focus starts to turn towards FC Gifu’s opening day opponents Kamatamare Sanuki. But with “Kama” being new to the J.League, there are a lot of people who won’t know too much about them. Here I’ll try to give a brief introduction to the team from Udon country.DSCF2665

Who are they?

Based in Kagawa prefecture, Shikoku, they claimed their J2 place with a 2-1 aggregate win over Gainare Tottori in the J2/J3 play off.

Who is their leader?

Makoto Kitano is their manager, and has been for the last four years. He has overseen their transition from a regional league side, to JFL and now to the J.League proper. The biggest testament to Kitano is that his team has improved through each year of his tenure.

Who are their “star” players?

It is difficult to class any Kama players as stars, as that is not the kind of club they are, but they do have some good attacking talent. Ryosuke Kijima is their captain, and he was top goalscorer last year. They have brought in ex-Frontale & Japan striker Kazuki Ganaha who was banging them in for FC Ryukyu last year and he will bring a touch of shrewdness to them – as will the permanent signing of Yutaka Takahashi, the two goal hero of the play-offs. One player I’m looking forward to seeing play is midfielder/defender Kohei Fujita. There were high hopes for Fujita after he made an assured start to his Sanuki career back in 2012, but he suffered a very serious ankle injury in a pre-season game with Tokyo Verdy last year and only came back right at the end of the season. With a full off-season to prepare, Kamatamare will be looking for Fujita to anchor their midfield.

What can they expect this year?

It is getting difficult to predict what the minimum projections for newly promoted sides should be. In the last few years we’ve had Matsumoto Yamaga (top half, both years), Machida Zelvia (relegated) & V-Varen Nagasaki (play-offs). I suspect Kamatamare would be content with avoiding relegation, but predicting what new teams can do has made me look foolish before.

I hope that serves as a basic introduction to our visitors next week. During the course of this week, I’ll do a more detailed match preview.