The football (soccer) season has been under way for a few weeks and yesterday I made my first visit to see Okinawa’s only professional team FC Ryukyu. The Ryukyu team play in the JFL which is the third tier of Japanese football. A good start has been made this season and after the first few matches Ryukyu are in 3rd place in the 18 team league. Unfortunately, a chance to go top of the table was missed yesterday when the match against mid-table Honda ended in a 1-1 draw, despite Ryukyu leading for much of the game through a penalty converted by Shunta Takahashi. Ryukyu’s opponents had to play for more than an hour with ten men after a sending off but were able to come back with a late equalizer.
Despite Ryukyu’s ambitions to achieve promotion to J2 there is still only a relatively small fan base in Okinawa. A strong football culture has yet to be established on the island and the sport is some way below baseball in popularity. The club also suffers from not having a home ground of its own and most matches are being played this season at Okinawa Athletic Park (Kensogo Undo Koen) close to Nakagusuku Bay. Plans are being made, however, for Okinawa to have its own purpose-built football stadium in the future.
Pre-match entertainment at yesterday’s match was provided by Okinawan salsa band Kachimba 1551.
Some pictures from yesterday:
FC Ryukyu’s next home match is at Okinawa Athletic Park on Monday 6th May (a national holiday) and is against Parceiro Nagano, kick-off 15.00.