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Yokohama FC's Sacking/Boycott Controversy

A little delayed to call "news", but thought it would be of interest.

Yokohama FC's season started off controversially when the club decided to dump manager Adachi after only 1 game played (a loss to Ehime who were just newly promoted from the JFL). This is the fastest axing in J history -- second would be Cerezo Osaka's sacking of Fuad Muzurovic after only two league games.

The reasoning behind it was that the team was showing poorly from the preseason, when they could not score goals even againt university school opponent teams. I guess the defeat to JFLers Ehime was just too much. The club, which is trying to make a serious run for promotion to the 1st division, said they had no choice but to act sooner than later. During the break, the club acquired 17 new players, and people argue that it was too soon for the club to expect Adachi to present a properly working team when everyone was new.

The supporters were indignant, and announced they would boycott their team's game against Tosu in Round 2 (March 11). Which they did. Of course it was a complicated mix of emotions, since the supporters' intention was not to take away support from the players, but they needed to show their anger at the way management handled things.

The new boss is Takuya Takagi, who is among the Doha Tragedy generation -- he was a forward for the national team (45 appearances with 27 goals) and played alongside Ramos (boss for Verdy now), and Hasegawa (boss for Shimizu). He is the fifth person from that generation to be promoted to the top coaching position in the J. Strangely enough, he is 1 year younger than current Yokohama FC player Kazu Miura.

The team has been able to avoid losing since Takagi came on -- two draws and one win. Though still not terribly convincing performances, at least the commotion seems to have settled down.

Killing Each Other with Respectful Stubborness?

The saga continues as the media tries to predict what will become of the butting of heads between Zico and Gamba Osaka. I briefly alluded to the squabble a few days ago, when Zico announced the squad for the friendly against Ecuador.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this. Originally, Gamba had the JFA inform Zico that they need their players for the March 29th game against Omiya that as rescheduled due to ACL duties. And the general understanding was that Zico would NOT list the three regular Gamba players, Kaji, Miyamoto and Endo.

But Zico caught everyone by surprise when these three names were on the list in the announcement this Wednesday. When questioned, Zico said that he kept the names in because he wanted to make sure the players understood their importance to the team as well as issues of motivation, etc. He did not seem particularly adamant, just that he wanted to keep the door open for the players. It isn't unheard of to back out of a call-up -- Yanagisawa did it just before Asia Cup 2004, and Kubo did it when he felt he wasn't up to fitness in Jan 2005.

Gamba are very irritated, because they had assumed this problem was taken care of. The club management asked the players what their feeling was toward this dilemma, and the players said that for the sake of the World Cup and their own chances of being included in the final squad, they wanted to join the NT for the pre-game training and the game itself. Gamba decided to respect the players' wishes and for now are not going to force the players to stay. But Gamba have sent some sort of memo to FIFA asking them to step in an reverse the priority for this one case. Otherwise Gamba have to respect the chain of command, that the NT call-up has priority.

Round 5 Preview Spotlight

A list of Round 5 fixtures can be found at the bottom of the left column of this blog along with the J1 Table.

No question, tomorrow's game between the two so-far undefeated teams Urawa Reds and Yokohama F Marinos is going to be the gem. Yokohama is stronger overall (IMHO), but Reds have the flair. I could see set pieces playing a big role here. Reds midfielder Ono apparently is suffering from a fever, and was a no show for practice today. Marinos Kubo has been unable to start of late due to problems with his chronic injuries; some of the other Marinos forwards have been scoring and doing well in his absence, but Kubo seems better now and may start afterall.

There is also news that Bundesliga's Wolfsburg (currently in 15th place) is checking out Makoto Hasebe for the summer transfer -- they are hoping to find a playmaker. A scout from the club apparently attended one of Urawa's closed door practices. As you know Hasebe has gotten his big break this year -- his international debut, and continued interest from Europe.

I of course will also try and catch the game between Jef Chiba and Kashima Antlers. The news today is that Kashima manager Autuori may continue to test out the diamond midfield, which he used last minute in the game against Kofu (the team used the system in the game without having practiced it prior to the match).

Jef Chiba have been prepping for their Kashima encounter at home, and if their fitness levels are up they will swarm on Kashima to prevent proper passing routes.

The "newly promoted" derby between Kofu and Fukuoka will also be interesting. Both teams will probably come on full throttle, feeling at least a little more confident playing a familiar face. Both teams felt a bit of the J1 blow in their last round, and a full three points is what each team will be after to boost them in the rankings as well as boosting their confidence.

Jubilo's game against Kawasaki could be another one for the record books. In the last round, Jubilo's win against Niigata made them the first J1 club to reach 250 wins. If they score 4 against Kawasaki, it will make them the first to reach 800 goals... though I don't see Jubilo scoring 4 goals in one game.. well, I could be wrong.

And will Cerezo Osaka be able to mark their first win (or even their first point?) against Niigata? There are rumblings that though the General Manager is showing faith in the taem's ability to turn things around soon (immediately!), if Cerezo performs poorly in the next two rounds, it could mean the axe for manager Kobayashi.
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