With the Japanese season currently ensconced in its long winter hibernation, it’s time to look back on some of the movers and shakers of the 2008 season, as Soccerphile hands out its J. League awards!
Team of the year – Oita Trinita
Both Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka deserve accolades – the former for winning back-to-back J. League titles and the latter for lifting an AFC Champions League/Emperor’s Cup double.
But few could begrudge the nomination of Kyushu club Oita Trinita as team of the season.
Not only did coach Pericles Chamusca Togel transform his outfit from potential relegation candidates to a genuine title contender, but he also lifted the first ever J. League trophy in Kyushu’s football history, as Oita Trinita lifted the 2008 Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup crown.
They were rarely pretty to watch – Oita combined the best defence in the league with one of the most goal-shy attacks – but they enriched Japanese football by threatening the hegemony of teams from the Kantō plain. Long may it continue.
Best stadium – Nack5 Stadium Omiya
The name might be tragic, but Omiya Ardija’s revamped Omiya Park Stadium wins the gong for the best new top-flight ground – by virtue of the fact that it’s the only new top-flight ground.
It was actually inaugurated towards the back end of the 2007 campaign, but this being Omiya’s first full season in their new home, the Squirrels earn the crown of best stadium on the basis of a compact design, excellent sightlines and the wonderful standing terraces behind the goals.
Now if Omiya could only fill it to its 15,500 capacity on a regular basis, it may just become the fortress that Ardija officials were originally hoping for.
Best supporters – JEF United
Whether from Chiba, Ichihara or anyone else within the region, JEF United fans packed Fukuda Denshi Arena on a consistent basis, despite the fact that their team spent virtually the entire campaign languishing in the relegation zone.
Full houses at home lead to crucial victories over the likes of Kashima Antlers and Urawa Reds, and when United went 2-0 down to FC Tokyo on the final day in a match they had to win in order to avoid relegation, their legion of yellow-clad fanatics willed the team home to an incredible 4-2 come-from-behind …