Situated on the island of Shikoku, Kochi is an oft-forgotten prefecture in many ways – in fact, if it wasn’t on the NHK weather forecast, I’m not sure that many people would know where it is. They need a J.League representative – and that is where @GifuRichy’s lowdown on Kochi United comes in handy.
One of the most remote prefectures in Japan, Kochi Prefecture, was surprisingly once a football powerhouse on the island of Shikoku. Tokushima, Ehime and Kagawa though, through financial and supporter power managed to push their way up into the J2, and leave poor little Kochi behind. However, in the last year or two, Kochi has come back into the frame, and now faces the test to see whether it can produce the next J-League club from Japan’s fourth largest island. .
Kochi United SC
- 1977 Shikoku League (As Nangoku Soccer Club) (Champions 1980)
- 1999 Shikoku League (As Nangoku Kochi SC) (Champions 2001-2005)
- 2014 Shikoku League (As Igosso Kochi)
- 2016 Shikoku League (As Kochi United SC)
Nangoku Kochi have a rich history in the Shikoku League, becoming champions for four straight years from 2001 to 2005. In 2005 they had the chance to be promoted to the JFL when they needed to win their last game against Nagano’s FC Ueda Jenshan by four goals. They came excruciatingly close, eventually winning 4-1, but this saw them finish third in the Regional Finals, just missing out on promotion by one goal. This was the last big chance the team would get and after that the team slumped into mediocrity for several years until 2014 when the team was renamed Igosso Kochi.
There was suddenly renewed interest from the public, with over 2000 people attending their first home game. The team also created their own Youtube channel, the brilliant Igosso TV, which was a monthly 30 minute round up of what was happening at the club. Unfortunately, in the league they could not get past Kochi’s top University team and fellow Kochi Representative Kochi U Torastar, and finished 2nd and 3rd in 2014 and 2015.
This year though it was announced that in order to give Kochi a better shot at representation in the J League, the prefecture’s top two teams – Igosso and Torastar, would merge forming Kochi United SC.
Kochi still has the hunger to create a J team, and this has been shown on the field, with Igosso and Torastar being two of the best teams in the Shikoku league, and off the field with renewed enthusiasm amongst supporters and sponsors, and great club promotion through their Youtube channel amongst other things. This merge to create one team to try and gain promotion also shows that the prefecture is serious about the situation and should help in the promotion of the club.
The newly merged team may take a little while to gel but has a great chance of becoming the Shikoku champions, if they can get past the J-League favored Takeshi Okada run FC Imabari who will provide the biggest test in the league. Should this happen Kochi United may surprise some teams and a spot in the JFL may not be too far away.