FC Ryukyu’s Last Home Match of 2019

FC Ryukyu played their final home match of the J2 football season yesterday against promotion chasing Kyoto Sanga. It was a very warm and sunny late afternoon kick-off in front of a good crowd of 7,500 but Ryukyu were unable to finish on a high note, losing the game 3-0 despite dominating possession for large periods.

Above from top: a scene outside the stadium; a banner calling for the rebuilding of Shuri Castle; the teams before kick-off.

None of this seemed to matter all that much, however, as Ryukyu had already secured safety for a second season in J2 next year. Following the match there was a ceremony in which Ryukyu staff and players lined up on the pitch to thank everyone for their support throughout the season.

The team is currently 15th in the 22-team league. The aim has always been simply not to be relegated and that has been achieved. The loss of many of the players who had won the J3 title was a blow and Ryukyu were favourites to finish bottom at the start of the season. During the season, top players Nakagawa and Suzuki also left to join J1 clubs and so manager Higuchi’s job became even more difficult, but he has finally guided them to safety.

The club’s swashbuckling attacking style and shaky defence has led to much excitement (and anxiety) in this first season in J2. Recent higher attendances have been very encouraging as Okinawa is still in the early stages of developing a football culture. The club has ambitions to push on and there is even talk of a future in J1. There has already been an announcement of increased ticket prices for next season in order to generate more revenue.

What is most needed really is a purpose-built football stadium where spectators are closer to the action and are under cover, so they don’t get soaked to the skin on rainy match days. Better access is also essential. We spent more than an hour yesterday driving around attempting to find a parking space within walking distance of the current stadium.

Above from top: ceremony after the match; manager Higuchi makes a speech; thanks to supporters.

On the pitch it would be nice to think that Ryukyu will not always have to sell their best players. 22-year old local boy Satoki Uejo has developed into an outstanding talent and was a joy to watch this season but already there has been speculation among supporters as to how long the club can hold on to him.

But enough complaining. The match day experience at FC Ryukyu is always enjoyable and there is a welcoming and friendly atmosphere both outside and inside the stadium. Congratulations must go to all at Ryukyu for a successful first campaign as a J2 club. There are still two away matches to go and a chance to get some more points on the board.


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