Archive for the ‘FC Ryukyu’ category

FC Ryukyu 2021

March 21, 2021

The new 2021 season has already begun and FC Ryukyu are competing once more in J2, the second tier of the J.League. It was time for another visit to see them. Yesterday was a warm and sunny day in Okinawa and the pre-match entertainment included a performance by the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Taiko group. Away supporters from Nagasaki were also allowed into the stadium for the first time this season.

This home game was a difficult test as they faced V-Varen Nagasaki, a club with J1 experience and ambitions to return to the top flight. I attended fearing it might put a jinx on that winning run. However, all fears were dismissed as Ryukyu put on an excellent display of passing, movement, and attacking football which was quite outstanding. By the 68th minute Ryukyu had a 3-0 lead with two goals from Ikeda and one from defender Numata, and despite conceding a late goal they were comfortable winners.

On one of the smallest budgets, Manager Higuchi has quietly built a team able to compete at this level and yesterday’s performance was probably the best I’ve seen from them in Okinawa. FC Ryukyu now find themselves in the unexpected position of second in the J2 league table with maximum points after four matches.

The next home match is on Saturday 3rd April at 17:00 when the visitors will be Omiya Ardija.


FC Ryukyu Update 2020

December 14, 2020

It’s almost the end of the J2 season and yesterday was the penultimate home game for FC Ryukyu who hosted strugglers Ehime. The season has been a bit of a non-event for all but the three teams at the top battling for the two promotion places. The pandemic meant relegation was suspended for one year, and with Ryukyu unlikely to figure in the promotion race it has been a strange season.

Nevertheless – and with a limited number of supporters allowed in the stadium – yesterday was a good day to be a Ryukyu fan. There was very warm sunshine for the late afternoon kick-off and the team put on a sparkling performance to win the game 6-0, with five second half goals, including a hat-trick from midfielder Koya Kazama.  

J.League football is a very different experience from the sometimes tense and confrontational nature of matches in England. The atmosphere is more like a carnival as clubs, including Ryukyu, take pride in welcoming away supporters, putting on pre-match entertainments, and offering a variety of food, drinks, and local specialities outside the stadium.

Yesterday was advertised as ‘Home Town’ day to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Okinawa City becoming the team’s home. The first 3,000 fans to enter the stadium were given specially produced FC Ryukyu shirts and there were gifts of food, drinks, and posters. Inside the stadium there was a pre-match performance by Sonda Seinenkai Eisa, and a live show by Okinawan pop duo D-51. Finally, after the 6-0 win, there was a firework display to send us all home in good spirits.

Easy access to the stadium is still problematic and there is the continual concern that FC Ryukyu will lose their best players after each season ends. The club are currently 17th in the 22-team league. Midfielder Yoshio Koizumi has been outstanding this season but already there are rumours of him moving on. But for now, we can savour the experience of a big win.

The final home game of the season is next Sunday 20th December, kick-off 14:00, when Ryukyu will play Machida Zelvia.

FC Ryukyu’s Last Home Match of 2019

November 11, 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.

FC Ryukyu Update

August 12, 2019

We are now beyond the halfway stage of the 2019 J.League football season. As reported before, Okinawa’s only representatives in the J.League are FC Ryukyu who are competing for the first time in the second tier, J2, after becoming J3 champions last season.

After a surprisingly good start to the campaign Ryukyu have since struggled to maintain their early form and have slipped to the lower half of the league table. The club is apparently run on the proverbial shoestring budget and because of its geographical position has very long distances to travel to away games. Home attendances have improved from last year but are still small on an island with no real football culture or tradition.

FC Ryukyu before last Saturday’s kick-off

However, last Saturday was an exciting time to be an FC Ryukyu supporter as the team took on V-Varen Nagasaki who were relegated from J1 last season. The game was billed (rather awkwardly in English) as a ‘Peaceful Match’ in recognition of the terrible wartime sufferings of the people of both Okinawa and Nagasaki and a silence was observed by teams and supporters before the kick-off.

Ryukyu’s recent losing streak looked like continuing as they were 2-1 down going into the 85th minute. But the introduction of forward Ryo Wada proved to be an inspired substitution as he assisted for an equaliser by Satoki Uejo. With manager Higuchi frantically urging everyone forward from the touchline, Wada then scored himself in the seventh minute of added time to give Ryukyu three points and a very dramatic 3-2 victory.

Goalscoring substitute Ryo Wada

FC Ryukyu and V-Varen Nagasaki mascots 

Ryukyu are currently 15th in the 22-team league table and have given themselves a decent chance of staying in J2 for at least another season – which has always been the main aim. Manager Yasuhiro Higuchi is to be commended for sticking to his guns and continuing with Ryukyu’s attacking philosophy. There would be no point in changing it now especially in view of the limited resources at his disposal.

What is worrying is that the club sold their best midfielder Kazaki Nakagawa shortly after the start of the season and there are reports today that top goalscorer Koji Suzuki may also be leaving to join J1 club Cerezo Osaka. Nakagawa has never been properly replaced and the loss of Suzuki would be a big blow.

The club has, however, also been active in bringing in some new players over the past week or so. Young midfielder Ramon has arrived from Fluminense, Brazil, and another midfielder, Koya Kazama, came from Gifu on loan and has already made a mark by scoring the first goal on Saturday.

Manager Yasuhiro Higuchi with new signing Shinji Ono

The most high-profile signing though has been the capture of former Japan international Shinji Ono from J1 team Sapporo. Ono is a veteran with experience of three World Cup finals and is one of the greatest players produced by Japan. His arrival may well boost attendances at Ryukyu but he will be 40 next month so is unlikely to offer a huge amount on the pitch. Nevertheless, it’s hoped he may provide the knowledge and inspiration for his teammates as they fight for continued survival in J2 – and a brighter future for football in Okinawa.

Next Saturday (17th) FC Ryukyu are at home again, this time against Yokohama FC, kick off 19:00.

FC Ryukyu in J2

February 25, 2019

FC Ryukyu made history yesterday with their opening match of the new season when they became the first team from Okinawa to play in J2 the second highest tier of J.League football. What’s more they won the game 3-1 in the rain against a strong Avispa Fukuoka team. It was an exciting match with Ryukyu sticking to their all-out attacking philosophy despite having lost their manager and many of the players from the J3 championship squad of last season.

Ryukyu are now led by new manager Yasuhiro Higuchi. Two of their goals yesterday came from debut striker Koji Suzuki while the other was scored by midfielder Yu Tomidokoro. It may be a long hard season for Ryukyu but they have made a great start with this unexpected win.


FC Ryukyu – J3 Champions

December 5, 2018

Okinawa’s only professional football club FC Ryukyu were recently crowned champions of the J.League’s third tier known as J3 and the team will play in J2 next season. At the Okinawa Times Building in Naha last night there was an event to celebrate this achievement and to mark the 15 years since the club’s foundation.  Three Ryukyu players, Kosuke Masutani, Taishi Nishioka, and Kazaki Nakagawa, also took part in a Talk Show and answered questions from the audience.

FC Ryukyu defender Taishi Nishioka

In addition to the players’ talk there was an exhibition of FC Ryukyu photos, shirts and memorabilia. The J3 Championship trophy was also on display.

One of the first shirts worn by the FC Ryukyu team

The road to J2 has finally been completed. Next season will be difficult with more matches to play in the 22 team J2 and long distances to travel with all away games in mainland Japan. For now we can celebrate the club’s success and hope that the people of Okinawa will get fully behind the team next season.

FC Ryukyu

April 28, 2013

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:

Ryukyu fans before the kick-off

Ryukyu fans before the kick-off

Takahashi and team celebrate the goal with an Okinawan katcharsee dance

Takahashi and team-mates celebrate the goal with an Okinawan katcharsee dance


Thanking the fans after the match

Thanking the fans after the match

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.