Xinhua News Agency, Tokyo, July 18th-More than 4,000 teams competed, many spectators came to cheer, and the players strove towards the dream of "dominating the whole country" … Japan’s high school football league, with a history of 100 years, entrusted the youth and dreams of countless football teenagers and contributed to the popularization and improvement of Japanese football.
The attendance rate of the final exceeded that of the professional competition.
Japan’s high school football league began in 1917, and it is held once a year except for five sessions due to war and other factors. Today, more than 4,000 senior high school teams participate in regional qualifiers every year, and finally 48 winning teams (2 in Tokyo and 1 in other regions) are selected by 47 prefectures and counties to represent the region in the national competition.
The annual national competition can be called an annual football feast. Take the 96th National Competition of Japanese Senior High School Football League as an example. From December 30, 2017 to January 8, 2018, 48 teams from 4,093 senior high school teams had a single-loss elimination match, with a cumulative audience of nearly 300,000 in 47 games, with an average of more than 6,300 people per game.
After some fierce fighting, the final finalists were Maebashi Yuying High School in Gunma County and Dabai High School in Chiba County. The final was held in Saitama 2002 World Cup Stadium, which attracted 41,337 people to watch the match. This figure also dwarfs many games in Japan’s professional football league (J League). According to statistics, in 2017, the average audience of Japanese professional football league (J1) was 18,883, that of J2 was 6,980, and that of J3 was only 2,613.
The high attendance rate is also related to the closeness of the ticket prices. In the semi-finals and finals, the first 3000 primary school students present are free of tickets. In the final, there are no free seats with designated seats. The price of primary school students is 800 yen (equivalent to RMB 47 yuan), high school students are 1,000 yen, and adult audience is 1,500 yen. The fare for designated seats ranges from 2,600 to 4,100 yen. Tickets for semi-finals and other competitions are slightly lower.
In the end, with a goal in stoppage time, Maebashi Yuying High School won the final and won the championship for the first time. Although there is no bonus, the high-standard treatment received by the team after winning the championship also proves from the side that local governments and people attach importance to this football event.
Back in Gunma County, the team’s parade in the downtown area of Qianqiao County attracted 30,000 people. Subsequently, the team was awarded the "County Citizen Honor Award" in Gunma County, which was founded in 1994. Prior to this, only astronauts had won it from Jing Qianqiu, Sumo Kungfu, the baseball department of Tongsheng No.1 University, Ogiwara Kenji, who won the gold medal in the Winter Olympics, and the baseball department of Maebashi Yuying High School.
High exposure and great influence
The regional qualifiers of Japan’s senior high school football league are organized and arranged by local football associations, while the national competition is hosted by Japan Football Association, Japan Senior High School Sports League and 43 TV stations headed by Japanese TV station NTV. The event is broadcast live all over the country with extremely high exposure. In addition, Yomiuri Shimbun, as a backup unit, its newspapers and magazines will also report the competition greatly.
In order to attract popularity and expand influence, the Japanese High School Football League has invited professional players who have participated in the High School Football League as image spokespersons since 2002, and the spokesperson for 2017 is Yuya Osako. Eiji kawashima, Shinji Okazaki, Gaku Shibasaki, Makoto Hasebe, etc. have all served as spokesmen among the Japanese national team members who played in the Russian World Cup recently.
There is also a female image representative in the league, also known as the "aid manager", and many famous Japanese female artists have played this role. In addition, each league has its own theme song and sells products around the competition.
The high exposure of high school football league attracted the sponsorship of Teijin, Toyota, Puma, Meiji, Fuji Xerox and other large enterprises. Hitachi, Nissan, Mitsui, Nike, Sanyo, Taisho Pharmaceutical and Coca-Cola were also sponsors of the league.
Inject fresh blood into professional football
The annual Japanese High School Football League has become an important place for professional clubs to select new stars. At present, Japanese professional football players mainly come from two channels: the youth training echelon of the club, and the football associations of universities and high schools. A big competition like the high school league is a great opportunity for players to show their abilities and move towards a career path.
The most talked about example is keisuke honda, who played for the Japanese team in the Russian World Cup recently. Honda was eliminated by the youth training echelon of Gamba Osaka, and then returned to Xingling High School in Ishikawa Prefecture. Later, it performed well in the high school league and was contested by nearly ten clubs, and finally embarked on the road of professional players.
In addition, Gaku Shibasaki and other Japanese international players are also from high school teams, and they are recruited by professional clubs because of their outstanding performance in the competition.
In addition to Japan’s senior high school football league, the Gaoyuan Palace Cup football championship and the comprehensive sports conference of Japanese universities have also attracted much attention. According to Japanese media statistics, many teams play more than 200 games every year. Large and small competitions have created rich practical opportunities for Japanese high school teams to help them improve their strength quickly, even if professional teams face them, they should not be taken lightly.
In addition, campus teams and competitions have also made great contributions to cultivating football atmosphere and popularizing football culture. According to Kensuke Yamada, coach of Maebashi Yuying High School Football Team, there are more than 4,000 large and small high school football teams in Japan. "Even if there are 50 people in each team, there will be 200,000 people. These high school students will engage in football-related jobs in the future, such as being professional players, coaches and instructors, or just becoming fans, which will promote the development of Japanese football." (Yan Lei, Deng Min, Liu Cong)