IN 1998
Disappearing team victorious in Emperor's Cup
The J.League team soon to be taken over and merged--Yokohama Flugels proceeded to the final game of the Emperor's Cup. This is the tourament in which top teams of the J.League and university face eachother. Flugels faced Shimizu S.Pulse before a crowd of 50,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium. S.Pulse did not, however, give Flugels any chance to attack in the beginning. S. Pulse, indeed, scored the first goal. It was only during the end of the 1st half of the game that Flugels players passed the ball eachother in front of the opponents goal smoothly that in the 44th minute Motohiro Yamaguchi kicked it in. With Takayuki Yoshida's goal later in the game, Flugels beat S. Pulse 2 to 1. It's the first time since 1993 that the Flugels clinched the Emperor's Cup, and truly the team's final one.
Michiyo's Note;
It's quite difficult to believe that noone is welling to rescue the Flugels after this incredible feat. Flugels' victory was prayed for, but at the same time viewed with sorrow--creating a complicated feeling among soccer fans.

"King" Kazu will leave J.League
Japan's long time ace striker Kazu Miura disclosed on Dec. 20 that he's made up his mind to join Zagreb in Craotia. He is expected to sign with the team on Jan. 5, stay on for a medical checkup, and join the team's training camp. Kazu's Croatian League debut is scheduled on Feb. 17 when the 2nd stage kicks off. Kazu's contract is reported 500 million yen for 1 1/2 years.

J.League Awards
Presented on Dec.7 at the Yokohama Arena.
Title Player
Player of the YearMasashi Nakayama (Jubilo Iwata)
Top Striker Masashi Nakayama (Jubilo Iwata)
Rookie of the Year Shinji Ono (Urawa Red Diamond)
Fair Play Award Naoki Soma (Kashima Antlers)
Manager of the Year Ze Mario(Kashima Antlers)
Referee of the Year Leslie Mottram
Assistant Referee of the Year Keiji Kamiara

Consadole fails to keep its place
Consadole Sapporo and Avispa Fukuoka struggled against eachother to remain in J1 for the first ever pro soccer playoff tournament. Avispa beat Consadole on Dec. 2, 1 to 0 at home. On Dec. 5, Avispa won again 3 to 0. Avispa, therefore secured its place among 16 teams in the J1 next season while Consadole will have to play in the J2.

Suntory Championship
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
The championship site on Nov. 28 was set at Kashima Stadium--the Antlers home ground. Brazilian born Bismarck helped Antlers' score Yutaka Akita head in the first goal. This was in the 39th minute. Then he himself kicked in the team's second goal 2 minutes later. Bismarck was given his second yellow card 30 minutes into the later half thus had to leave the game. Jubilo furiously attacked the Antlers. In the 39th minute, at last, Jubilo scored. Toshiya Fujita did it by receiving a pass from Hiroshi Nanami. However, Jubilo failed to score more points, and the game ended 2 to 1 for the Antlers. Brazilian star Dunga wrapped up his 4 years with Jubilo. The Antlers became the J.League champion for the 2nd time.
1st leg
On Nov.21, the game was held at Tokyo's National Stadium. 7th minute into the game, Jubilo's Masashi "Gon" Nakayama scored a PK. The Antlers caught up 27th minute into the 2nd half with Yoshiyuki Hasegawa's kick. Both sides had chances to goal thereafter but could not. The game went into sudden death. It was 5 minutes into the later half of the extra game that Antlers'Ichiei Muroi succeeded in a goal. The Antlers won 2 to 1.

Antlers' win second stage
Kashima Antlers'technical advisor, Zico attended the last game of the 2nd stage. It was on Nov. 13. The Antlers won 4 to 1 over Vissel Kobe and clinched the 2nd stage victory. Jubilo defeated Gamba Osaka 5 to 4 and took second place. Masashi "Gon" Nakayama had 2 goals making his total goals of the season to 36. He obviously became the league's stop scorer. For Kawasaki Verdy it was a sad game. Verdy not only lost to Kashiwa Reysol 1 to 2, it was Ruy Ramos's last game. The former Brazilian turned Japanese closed the curtain of his 22 years playing in Japan.

Flugels' final home game
Yokohama Flugels were able to win their final J.League game at their home stadium on Nov. 7, 2 to 1 over Avispa Fukuoka. After the game, Flugels' captain Koji Maeda spoke before the fans in tears saying he does not know how he will explain the merger issue to his son. Flugels fans have been expressing disappointment of the merger with a rival team.

Gon is highest ever scorer
At last, the annual scoring record in the J.League was broken. Of course, the hero was Masashi "Gon" Nakayama of Jubilo Iwata. He kicked in a penalty kick on Oct. 31 in the game against Shimizu S. Pulse. That was the record breaking 33rd goal Gon this year. On Nov. 7, he kicked in his 34th goal. His team defeated Kashiwa Reysol 4 to 0.

Yokohama teams to merge
It was disclosed on Oct. 28 that Yokohama Flugels will merge with Yokohama Marinos. The reason for this is that a major construction company Sato Kogyo decided to step down as one of Flugels' sponsor due to financial difficulty. The merged team is planned to go under the name of Yokohama F. Marinos. It's the first time since the start of the J.League in 1993 for teams to merge. The merger will not only affect the players, but the new relegation system that will determine which teams will stay in the J.League next year. Marinos will own 70 percent of the new team while the other 30 percent will belong to the Flugels. On Oct. 31, the Flugels played their first game since the announcement. The team wiped out Cerezo Osaka 7 to 0.

Gon is back in great shape
Masashi "Gon" Nakayama of Jubilo Iwata was not able to play much of the 2nd stage until Oct. 3. In the game against the Yokohama Flugels, Gon exploded. He completed a hat trick--his 5th this year, and his 6th career feat extending the national record. New national team manager Phillipe Troussier looked on from the stands. Jubilo won its 7th straight game 4 to 0 promoting the team to 2nd place in the 2nd stage standing. Meanwhile, Yokohama Marinos won to keep the lead.

Reds halt winning streak
On Sept. 23, Urawa Red Diamonds' winning record was no longer extended. Cerezo Osaka beat the team 2 to 1. Former South Korean Songyong Wong kicked in a goal for Cerezo's 3rd straight win. The Nagai Stadium in Osaka attracted a record crowd of 16,145.

Verdy marks worst record
Popular team Verdy Kawasaki, on Sept. 12 lost again. It was 0 to 1 to Nagoya Grampus Eight. This marked the team's 7th straight loss in the J.league regular season. Verdy had just released manager Nicanor on Sept. 7 because of the team's poor performance. It has not scored a goal in 3 straight games, despite having great veteran players such as Kazu Miura, Ruy Ramos and former national team captain Tetsuji Hashiratani. Verdy, is no doubt, ranked last among 18 J.league teams. On top is Urawa Red Diamonds which has won all 4 games of the 2nd half of the season.

Largest ever J.League turnout recorded
The J.League game that attracted the most number of spectators was, before the 1998 All Star Game, the game that kicked off the pro league in 1993, between Verdy Kawasaki and Yokohama Marinos. The All Star Game on Aug. 15 at the Yokohama International Stadium drew 60,566. Hiroaki Morishima of Cerezo Osaka completed 2 goals and won the Most Impressive Player Award. MVP went to Dragan Stojkovic of the Nagoya Grampus Eight. J. West defeated J.East 3 to 1.
Michiyo's Note: The big attention on the game is quite natural. Afterall, its the first time after the World Cup in France that so many national players can be viewed at one time, plus Stojkovic and Dunga, however, minus Hidetoshi Nakata who has joined Italian Serie A.

Jubilo triumphs in J.league's first stage
Brazilian team captain Dunga kicked in Jubilo's first goal. Jubilo won over Bellmare Hiratsuka 3 to 1 for its first stage victory on Aug. 8. That's in the last game of the stage. Jubilo clinched the top place without its star player Masashi "Gon" Nakayama who's been out of games since fracturing his leg in the World Cup in France. Jubilo is proving to be J.League's best team since the later part of last year. It will play against the winner of the 2nd stage in the Suntory Championship on Nov. 21 and 28.

Nabisco Cup title goes to Jubilo
Jubilo Iwata clinched the Nabisco Cup for the first time beating JEF Ichihara 4 to 0 on July 19. This was despite the fact that "Gon" Nakayama had to stay out because of a broken bone in the right leg--an injury he sustained during Japan's World Cup game against Jamaica. Brazilian star Dunga was also missing. Their absence was made up by 23-year old Nobuo Kawaguchi who only joined the J.League this year. He kicked in 2 goals and was named Most Valuable Player.

Stoichkov joins J.League team
Kashiwa Reysol signed a contract with 1994 World Cup top scorer Hristo Stoichkov. Reysol announced on May 19 that his contract will be valid from July 2 until January 1, 1999. Stoichkov was on the World Cup squad in France for Bulgaria, but failed to take his team to the knock out round. Stoichkov arrived in Japan on July 14 with his family and joined the Reysol the next day. Stoichkov is quite a hero in his own country. The one worry for the team is his temperament.

Gon extends hat trick record
On Apr. 29, Masashi "Gon" Nakayama completed another hat trick. He scored 3 goals. The opposing team was Consadole Sapporo which was zipped. Gon's record of 4 hat trick games in a row is a world record in a professional soccer league.

Gon breaks J.League record
Masashi "Gon" Nakayama marked his 3rd straight hat trick game on Apr. 25. Jubilo's Nakayama scored 5 goals on Apr. 15, then 4 in the next, and on this day, another 4 goals. His team at the same time clobbered Fukuoka Avispa 7 to 1. Jubilo has with this win reached the top of the rankings among the 18 teams. Poor Avispa had lost its 8th game in a row.

Record goals in Cerezo vs. Jubilo game
In the 6th J.League game on Apr. 15, an incredible record was set. Masashi Nakayama scored 5 goals. He ties with the J.League record in one game. Moreover, his team, Jubilo Iwata, piled in 9 goals--a new J.League record. Previously, 7 was the most in the league. The opposing team Cerezo Osaka had only one goal that day.

1998 J.League kicks off
The J. League opened for the 1998 season on Mar.21 with 18 teams. There is one more team from the previous year. Consadole Sapporo became the first team from Hokkaido, the big island in northern Japan to join the pro league. If faced Shimizu S Pulse, and unfortunately lost 1 to 4. It is to be seen if Consadole will outlash the belief that a new J.League team finishes last. Last year's J. League champion Jubilo Iwata defeated Kyoto Purple Sanga 2 to 0, while 1st stage winner Kashima Antlers had a 4 to 2 victory over Fukuoka Avispa.

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