The Japan Futsal Federation has confirmed that the country's new Futsal League would be up and running by September 2007. The announcement also revealed the names of the eight teams that will participate in the inaugural season as well as the league's format.
The teams will compete in a triple round-robin league, playing each other at home, away and on neutral ground. That will make for 84 games on 21 matchdays, with the teams gathering in Tokyo for seven neutral matchdays. The season will kick off in September 2007 and end in March 2008.
The number of futsal players began to increase quickly in Japan in the 1990s during the football boom that accompanied the launch of the J-League in 1993. While the Japan Football Association and the Futsal Federation have already actively organised age-group competitions and regional contests, the introduction of a national league represents a new stage of football development in Japan. The new league can be expected to play a major role in the spread of futsal, and also enhance its popular appeal.
Japan Futsal Federation Chairman Kuniya Daini listed the main reasons for establishing a national league: "More than 1.7 million people now play futsal in Japan. Beyond that, the national team qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Championship for the first time when it reached the 2004 finals in Chinese Taipei, and this year Japan won the AFC Futsal Championship for the first time, so the timing seemed perfect."
The federation called for applications for participation in the new league in August 2006, and representatives of 16 teams came forward. The eight successful candidates were chosen after being scrutinised from such viewpoints as organisational structure, financial status, degree of local government support and the quality of home facilities. In the following list, the team names are those used at the time of application, and each name is followed by the club's home town in parentheses.
AMV Hanamaki (Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture)
Predator Urayasu (Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture)
Cascavella Machida (Machida City, Tokyo)
Shonan Bellmare (Shonan District, Kanagawa Prefecture)
Nagoya Oceans (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture)
Mag's Osaka (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)
Selecao Kobe (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Oita Esperanca (Oita City, Oita Prefecture)
Leagues elsewhere in the world are known by such names as Liga Futsal (Brazil), LNFS (Spain) and Divisione Calcio a 5 (Italy). A name with a similarly strong appeal is being sought in Japan and applications are being accepted nationwide from 22 November until 18:00 (JST) on 22 December 2006. The name and a league logo will be announced officially at the end of January 2007. Details are available (in Japanese only) at www.japan-futsal.jp .