J.League Awards
Presented on Dec.15 at Shin Yokohama Arena.
Title Player
Player of the YearDunga (Jubilo Iwata)
Top Striker Patrick Mboma (Gamba Osaka)
Rookie of the Year Atsushi Yanagisawa (Kashima Antlers)
Fair Play Award Akihiro Nagashima (Vissel Kobe))
Manager of the Year Joao Carlos (Kashima Antlers)
Referee of the Year Masashi Okada
Assistant Referee of the Year Yoshigazu Hiroshima

Suntory Championship: JUBILO IWATA WINS !
The winner of J.league's first stage and second stage compete in this championship. They are Kashima Antlers and Jubilo Iwata respectively.
2nd leg
On Dec. 13, the game was held at Kashima stadium. Gon did it again. The game was 0 to 0 until the later 36th minute. Star striker Masashi Nakayama made an effort to kick the ball with his right foot while losing his balance. He got it in. The goal gave Jubilo the J.League crown for the first time. Jubilo was promoted to the J.League in 1994. Nakayama was chosen MVP. He earned 1 million yen, while his team was awarded 10 million yen. Immediately following the award ceremony, there was trouble. Antlers fans swarmed into the soccer field, and verbally attacked the Jubilo players. The action ruined the celebration.
1st leg
This game took place at Iwata Stadium on Dec. 6. Jubilo's Masashi "Gon" Nakayama kicked in 2 goals. The Antlers caught up with goals by Bismarck and Mazinho. The game went into extra time. In the 14th minute, Jubilo's Norihisa Shimizu finished the game by shooting the ball into the goal. The 2nd leg is coming up on Dec. 13.

Nabisco Cup Final
Second leg
The Antlers won again, this time at their franchise in Kashima, Ibaragi Prefecture on Nov. 29. They scored 5 goals. Of them, 2 goals were by Mazinho. On the otherhand, Jubilo only kicked in one. There were 14,444 fans looking on in the pouring rain. Jorginho was named MVP. This is the Antlers's first Nabisco Cup victory.
First leg
It's been 3 months since the national team players participated in a J.league game. They were, of course, playing in the World Cup Asian preliminaries. 6 of them were back with their respective games for the first leg of the Nabisco Cup final on Nov. 22. Jubilo Iwata and the Kashima Antlers played in front of a crowd of 10437 in Iwata Stadium. Yutaka Akita of Kashima, and Masashi Nakayama of Jubilo, both national team members scored a goal each. Antler's Jorginho succeeded in a penalty kick for the team's 2 to 1 victory.

A new J.League team is born
Consadole Sapporo, a team from Hokkaido, northern Japan has secured its promotion to the J.League level by defeating Oita Trinity on Oct. 22. Consadole took the JFL title as well in front of a happy crowd of more than 17,000. JFL consists of 16 teams. The local people seemed especially elated that at last, it will have a pro sports team from the area. The name Consadole is "donsanko" or the name for the local people of Hokkaido, pronounced upside down with the Spanish word "ole" added to it.

Jubilo's first J.League title
The 2nd stage title of the J.League went to Jubilo Iwata. Their victory was decided on Oct. 1, by defeating JEF United Ichihara 5 to 0, and Kashima Antlers losing to Shimizu S. Pulse 2 to 0. Jubilo has lost only 2 games in the latter half of the season. Members of the team include the Masashi Nakayama, who has become a star when playing as a national team member for preliminary games to the World Cup in the USA. The victory is owed highly to Brazil's national team captain Dunga who has joined the team this season.

Jubilo was promoted to J.League level 4 years ago. The team initially took off as Yamaha Football Club in 1992.
Michiyo's Note: It's sad that such a great moment for a J.League team is not celebrated much. The game, unfortunately, had a turnout of only 4700. Saburo Kawabuchi, J.League chairman was not event present for the game.

Ruy Ramos returns to Verdy
It was disclosed on Aug. 15 that Japanese turned Brazilian born, Ruy Ramos will play once again for Kawasaki Verdy. The Kyoto Purple Sanga fans have reacted against this move. Purple Sanga Flags that have cheered on Ramos were ignited during the game played between Sanga and Yokohama Marinos that day. 40-year old Ramos had promised upon transfering to the new team on May 1996 that he will do his best to boost their performance. It is believed that Verdy desperately approached Ramos,their former captain, because they could not get their team to top form this season. Ramos played his comeback game with the Verdy on Aug. 23, and the team won 2 to 0 over Fukuoka Avispa. However, Verdy recorded their lowest turnout of 6359.

J.League All-Star game
The All-Star game, which was scheduled for July 26 at the Kobe Universiade Stadium was delayed, due to the approach of Typhoon number 9. But the weather was as bad the following day. In the pouring rain, players representing West and East clashed. The game had a turnout of over 22,000. Now, the result of the game was 4 to 1. The West team won. Brazilian born veteran player, Ruy Ramos played aggressively at age 40. It's his first full-game appearance since May 31. He was able to produce a pass to help Gamba Osaka's Patrick Mboma kick in the team's 2nd goal. Ramos was named Most Impressive Player. Mboma, a Cameroon International, succeeded in a hat trick. He was awarded the MVP. Mboma is one of the most popular players in the J.League this season.

Antlers clinch J.League's first stage
The Kashima Antlers took the first stage title of the J. League on July 19. Soccer superstar and the team's technical advisor Zico looked on. They played the final game of the first stage against Cerezo Osaka at Nagai Stadium in Osaka. The Antlers' Brazilian striker Mazinho pushed in a goal in the 14th minute to take the team to a 1 to 0 victory. Meanwhile, runner up Yokohama Flugels had defeated Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3 to 2, but failed to score enough goals to top the Antlers. The Antlers were the overall champion of the J.League in 1996. They will meet the 2nd stage champion in the J. League Championship on Dec. 6 and 13.

Storm strikes J.League game
The game at the Komaba Stadium in Tokyo on May 17 kicked off after 2 hours of strong shower. As the Yokohama Flugels and the Urawa Red Diamonds started to play, the sky started to grumble and spark. Then after the first 40 minutes a great downpour. The 18,000 spectators sought refuge. The field became flooded with rain, and the thunder became dangerously loud that the referee stopped the game. At 7:43 pm, the game was cancelled. It's the first time a J.League game was affected by a thunderstorm.

JEF worsens attendance record
The game in Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture on May 7 had an even lower turnout. Only 2245 people came to see the game of JEF Ichihara vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima, That's down by 812 people from the lowest turnout ever recorded on Apr.16 also at the same stadium. The reason for JEF's low popularity is believed to have to do with the fact that the home team practices in Urawa-city which is more than an hour train ride from Ichihara.
Michiyo's Note: My friend who is a correspondence for World Soccer magazine told me that the access to the stadium is really bad. You have to ride the bus for 25 minutes to get to the stadium, plus the nearest train station is on the Uchiboh line which doesn't haven't many direct trains to the nearest main city which is Tokyo. Also, there's never been great local support for JEF Ichihara.

Attendance record in the J.League
One of the most feared thing happened. The game between JEF Ichihara and Kyoto Purple Sanga played in Ichihara on Apr. 16 drew only 3057 people. That's the least ever at a J.League game. The previous low was 4491. J.League chairman Saburo Kawabuchi actually bought tickets to the game to help raise support, but in vain. Even worse was that not even one game that day attracted more than 10,000 spectators.

1997 J. League kicks off
A total of 17 teams, that's one more than the previous year took off to the J. League season on April 12. The 2 stage format is used this season. Teams have come up with ideas to draw more fans. The number of spectators have declined drastically in the 1996 season. That's by 26 percent compared to the year before. Kawasaki Verdy has, for example, lowered ticket prices, there are teams giving out the popular games called tamagochi. None of them worked in the opener, however.

National player Maezono is finally a Verdy
The Yokohama Flugels and Verdy Kawasaki have finally reached an agreement on Jan.30 concerning national team player Masakiyo Maezono. Discussions have been taking place between the 2 teams for the past 2 months. That's shortly after the Flugels failed to keep Maezono happy playing for the team. The Flugels, where Maezono has been playing since 1990 has been asking for a whooping 450 million yen from the Verdy. But the Verdy agreed to only half that amount on January 18. Team officials met again, and finally decided to agree to 350 million yen. Now, it's great news for Maezono that he will be able to play with the Verdy, regardless of the amount of money that will be paid to him which is estimated to be 80 million yen. Maezono would have been cut off from the national team scheduled to play in the Kings Cup in Thailand from February 9 to 16 if he wasn't claimed by a J.League team by the end of January. So he just made it!

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