New Sports Ministry for 2020 Olympic Games

Besides the most awaited hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Japan, particularly Tokyo is also expected to host the 2020 Paralympic Games. Because of this, the government intends to appoint a former athlete to head a sports related administration.

According to sources, the policy is aimed at implementing projects for the 2020 Games that are more in-line with the current actual situation in the sports world. The new sports administration will have a huge role, as it is assigned to control sports related government budgets. The agency will also be in charge of fostering top-level Japanese athletes, promoting sports in local communities and making international contributions in sports fields.

This month, the new agency will be convened, particularly on January 26. From this day onwards, a revision in the constitution will be processed by the diet so that the new ministry will be legally administered. According to sources, the government is planning to start the new agency with about 120 staff.

The most controversial part but with no doubt acceptable proposition is the selection of the first head of the new agency. The government will select candidates from among former athletes, such as Olympic medalists with substantial experience in international competitions, not politicians or senior officials of the education ministry. With the first hand experience, the soon to be appointed ministry head is expected to be able to understand more the situation of the present and incoming athletes.

Baseball is an Olympic Sport

Baseball is an Olympic Sport

The core of the new agency’s organizational structure will comprise officials from the education ministry’s Sports and Youth Bureau. The agency’s staff will also include members of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in charge of health promotion projects; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in charge of construction and improvement of sports facilities; the Foreign Ministry in charge of international contribution projects in sports fields; and the private sector.

Expect the launching of the new agency to be held later this year, perhaps by August, four months after the initially proposed April launching.

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Foreign Footballers in Japan

Japan has a strong football culture. Not a surprise, given that it is the second most popular sport in the country, lagging behind only baseball in terms of overall popularity. The highest level of local football is played in the J. League Division 1 which is comprised of 18 different teams competing to be the best and qualify for the Asian Champions league tournament.

Across Asia, Japan is generally considered the strongest football nation, recently also having been crowned the champions of Asia with a dominating performance in the tournament. One point of interest, however, is that the J. League Division 1 is somewhat limited in its number of foreign players. Across many other leagues, especially European ones, transfers between teams of different leagues are very common, with the top leagues (especially Bundeslida, La Liga 1, Serie A, etc.) consistently moving players around in the transfer windows.

Japan’s top 18 teams have around a total of 65 foreign players in their clubs, which compared to some other leagues, is not much. Most teams have around 3 foreigners, with some opting to have up to 5, and others having just one or two. Of those foreigners, a vast majority stem from the country of the “beautiful game” – Brazil itself. The reason for this is that Japan does not have the ability to easily trade players from other leagues – mainly because most other top competitive leagues are far away. Very few European players opt to go to Japan, regardless of what they’re offered. This has both advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that a lot of local Japanese talent has the opportunities to go pro and develop as players. The downside is that the level of development in the competition itself is stunted – which can be dangerous as the Japanese will have a harder time competing internationally. In order for the league to grow as a whole and as a business, foreign innovation and competition is needed inside Japan. The reason Japan is attractive to Brazilian players is first of all the living conditions. There are definite benefits to going abroad, including higher pay and such, and here Japan can easily compete with a lot of the middle level Brazilian teams, whereas they couldn’t hope to poach a player from a top European team due to monetary reasons alone. Inclusion of foreigners in Japanese football also has benefits as it may highlight prevalent social issues, such as Japanese comfort women.


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Japan vs Colombia 2014

The Japanese Men’s football team came into the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the Asian champions, slanted to be the favorites for the region to cause some major upsets in a world of football mainly dominated by European and South American teams. They were pinned as the best team from Asia with the right players and potential to make it into the quarter finals, perhaps even further than that.

However, the team’s group proved to be no slouch of a group – Greece, Ivory Coast and Colombia all posed as the team’s immediate opponents. Losing in a devastating comeback by Ivory Coast resulting in a 1-2 score line followed by a 0-0 draw against Greece, Japan went into their final match of the group stages against Colombia well aware of what was at stake. A win was desperately needed along with the slim chance of Greece nabbing a win away from the Ivory Coast for the Japanese to force a tiebreaker for the second spot in the group with Colombia well secured in first place.

Much pressure was on for Japan’s strong midfield as that would be the main field of contention between the two teams. The game started at a quick pace and pressure mounted – and it showed. Minute 17 and the Samurais committed a crucial error. A foul inside the penalty box and the penalty was given – easily converted by Cuadrado. The Asians remained composed and fought back, which paid off just before halftime with a cheeky goal by Okazaki to even the score out.

The Colombians were far from finished however – drawing strength from their large crowd of fans, the South Americans stepped up the pace significantly, dominating the midfield and creating intense amount of pressure on Japan’s backline. It only took them 10 minutes into the second half to score, putting Japan behind by one. The Japanese prevailed, but to little avail – 8 minutes from the end, Jackson scored his second, making the score 1-3 in Colombia’s favour. While 8 minutes in football is a long time, it generally isn’t enough to score two. To seal the deal and kick the wounded team some more, the Colombian team managed a fourth goal in the closing minute of injury time, crushing Japan 1-4.

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Emperor’s Cup

Quite a few tournaments are held throughout Japan for the sport of football, which has despite international market share dominance only managed to reach second place in terms of popularity in the ever illustrious Land of the Rising Sun.

None of these, however, is as large and as important as the Emperor’s Cup. There is much to be said about this particular event, which sets the pace for Japanese football throughout every year. The Emperor’s Cup has the longest and most diverse history of all the competitive football events in Japan, having history dating back all the way to just after the end of World War I, 1921. In fact, prior to the outbreak of World War II, there had actually been a time wherein Japan’s Emperor’s Cup also hosted teams from outside south-east Asia, including Korea and Taiwan.

Nowadays, the point of the competition is to determine the single strongest football team across Japan. The cup is held annually and any team is free to enter it as long as they are recognized by the Japan Football Association. Using this format, one can expect to see some interesting match ups, as all levels from the best of professional football all the way to high schools and collegiate teams are in attendance.

Of course, it is to be expected for the teams participating in the J. League, the highest league for professional football on the national level, to consistently win, which they normally do. Regardless, those willing to push themselves and those wanting to prove themselves all get an equal shot at impressing potential sponsors and talent scouts, which has given rise to careers on more than one occasions.

Despite the general dominance of the J. League Division 1 and Division 2 teams, it is also generally unlikely for teams to achieve an aptly named “double,” which would be to win both the Emperor’s Cup as well as their respective division. The winning team of the tournament is rewarded by being allowed to wear a special emblem on their jerseys in the following season to signify their status as the year’s winner.

Another very important facet of the competition is its international significance. The winning team of the Emperor’s Cup is guaranteed a spot in the following season of the AFC Champions League which is the premier Asian football competition for professional clubs, organized by the Asian Football Confederation. Only the best of every region is admitted, either by winning a specific tournament or placing in the top spots of a nation’s highest league.

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