Earlier this month, FC Gifu opened their brand new clubhouse/training ground and it represents a huge step in solidifying the professional structure of the club.
Up until this year, Gifu were forced to train at various locations around Gifu city, and sometimes outside of the city. Because of the varied training grounds, none of them were really up to scratch as far as professional teams were concerned. There were amateur training facilities – think port-a-cabins – and no rest/recuperation facilities to speak of. In summer, when temperatures in this area regularly get over 35 degrees, the players would cool down in what could only be described as a big children’s inflatable pool. The sight of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi & Alex Santos – two seasoned and hyper experienced Japanese internationals in such pools was a strange sight.
But now, FC Gifu have a clubhouse to call their own. Located in the north west of the city, the Hoku Seibu Ground is a financial collaboration between the club and the city government. The FC Gifu supporting public made a huge push to get this facility built – collecting over 160,000 signatures on a petition (out of a population of 450,000, that is very good going) and also raising funds through various donation/collection activities. It is also a fitting tribute to former club president Satoshi Onda, who stepped down from his role this winter in order to focus on his quality of life (for those unaware, Mr. Onda suffers from ALS syndrome). Onda was a prime motivator and the driving force behind the partnership, a partnership that hasn’t always been the smoothest due to factions within the city authorities not really caring about the football club.
The clubhouse is a modern place, and while not as flashy as some of the other clubhouses in the J.League it will be huge boon for the players and management. For the players, it gives them a base and provides facilities for them to train, rehabilitate and study opponents. For Ramos and his assistants, it gives them a place to sit down together, watch game tape and speak to the group.
Perhaps most importantly, it gives the club a professional credibility that was partly missing due to the lack of said facilities. It must have been much easier to recruit players this year compared to previous years just by showing them this facility. FC Gifu have been professional for a while, but had been slightly left behind in the infrastructure stakes by many other clubs, now this is not the case.
The facility is open to the public, as it is a partly funded through public funds. Those wishing to use the public spaces, meeting rooms and even the gym can do so (although, not at the same time as Gifu use it).
All in all it is a huge step for the club. Here’s hoping the performances on the pitch this year reflect the undoubted progress that has been made off it.
- All photos here are taken from the official FC Gifu website report