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Meiji Restoration of Japanese Football
Author: Ying Hong-xia
‘Restoring Japanese football after the war was as difficult as rebuilding the country on its ruins.’
‘Similar to the impact of Fukuzawa Yukichi’s thoughts on Japan’s Meiji Restoration, conceptual reform and ideology first triggered the epoch-making revolution in the professionalization of Japanese football.’
‘The secret of Atsuto Uchida’s success in the Bundesliga is the mix of the German’s perseverance plus the agility of Japanese football players.’
By the time of the release of this article, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup should have reached a critical stage and this year’s champion will be crowned in Abu Dhabi on 1 February. To date, the Asian Cup has been held 16 times, during which Japan has emerged the most successful team winning the championship four times. The book introduced in this issue also chronicles the overall development of Japanese football.
Meiji Restoration of Japanese Football (referred to as The Restoration) was published in 2012. Author Ying Hong-xia is a Chinese sports journalist, who is also regarded as a ‘Japanese football guru’ because of her mastery of the Japanese language, frequent interviews with Japanese coaches and players as well as her in-depth knowledge about football’s development in Japan. For this reason, her book The Restoration can indeed be considered a brief history of Japanese football, presenting to readers its development all the way from the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The use of ‘Meiji Restoration’ in the book title is an allegorical reference to Japan’s success in its 20-year football reform. With the flourishing J-League and Japanese national team being the Finalist in the World Cup regularly, it is hard to imagine how Japanese football grew from amateur level to professional a few decades ago. By contrast, the development of Chinese football – which started professionalization at a similar time as Japan – stands in stark opposition to the case of Japan and the situation is indeed disheartening.
Who would have ever thought that the 1936 Olympic football match where Japan pulled off an upset of Sweden would influence the Japanese scientist who won the country’s first Nobel Prize more than a decade later? Who knew that the names of J-League football teams have their own special meanings, and that the legendary Brazilian player Zico once joined Japanese commercial football team in second division only?
Through stories behind these facts as told in The Restoration, readers will realize that Japanese football’s achievements nowadays did not come about through sheer luck, and that the success Japan has achieved can serve as a good example for Chinese football. Although the book was written seven years ago, it still retains relevancy even today.
About the writer: Uncle Shrimp loves reading, writing and athletics, and hopes he can continue exploring the world through sports.