We all know about the “derby” situation in Japan. You have the “real” ones that are borne out of proximity and have grown organically over time. Examples of these would include:

  • Shimizu S-Pulse vs Jubilo Iwata

  • Gamba Osaka vs Cerezo Osaka

  • Urawa Reds vs Omiya Ardija

And then you have the ones dreamt up by over-enthusiastic marketing departments to try and create a sense of excitement. I’m talking about:

  • The “Umbro derby” between Gamba Osaka and FC Tokyo – and, yes, it really was the kit supplier derby

  • The “Battle for the Kita Alps” between Matsumoto Yamaga, FC Gifu and Kataller Toyama (when they were in J2)

  • The “Orange derby” between Albirex Niigata and Omiya Ardija – literally because both teams wear orange.

One footballing derby borne of proximity that might have slipped your attention is one on the island of Kyushu between Avispa Fukuoka (from the city of Fukuoka) and Giravanz Kitakyushu (from the city of Kitakyushu). The two cities, which both boast 1,000,000 + populations, are located just 75km apart from each other and so it seems only natural that the two teams & support bases should develop a bit of a rivalry.

To go a bit deeper into this derby, self-confessed Avispa supporter and J.League lover @NavyBlueWasp gives us all we need to know, plus much more, about Blue vs Yellow, east vs west – Fukuoka prefecture style.

There are a lot of derbies in the J.League. Japanese people seem to love derbies and I think the PR-sections of the league and the clubs try to build them whenever possible to make sure more people will come to the stadium and have a good time.

The most well-known local ones are the Shizuoka-Derby between Jubilo Iwata & Shimizu S-Pulse, the Osaka-Derby between Gamba Osaka and Cerezo Osaka or the Saitama-Derby between Urawa Reds & Omiya Ardija. But there is a derby in the far west of the country, which is slightly newer than these classic ones.

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Giravanz Kitakyushu banner

In this report, I want to tell you a bit more about the Fukuoka Derby between Avispa Fukuoka and Giravanz Kitakyushu, the only real local derby from Kyushu in Japanese professional football, and picked out some memorable ones to do so. I also interviewed fans from both camps about their thoughts on this game and clubs and take a look on players who played for both Fukuoka prefecture teams.

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Avispa manager Masami Ihara

The Fukuoka-Derby came to life when Avispa ended the 2009 J2 season  in eleventh place and Giravanz Kitakyushu, known as New Wave Kitakyushu at that time, ended the JFL season in fourth place behind Champion Sagawa Shiga, Yokogawa Musashino and Sony Sendai FC. As the JFL was the 3rd tier of Japanese football then, by holding the J.League Associate Membership since 2008 and finishing in the top four, Kitakyushu was allowed to join J2 in 2010.

Ok, so let’s get into the games…

1ST DERBY – THE DRAMATIC END
The very first Fukuoka-Derby in J.League-History was held on 22.05.2010 at Honjo Athletic Stadium in Kitakyushu. 7.398 spectators saw a good game with chances for both sides. Halfway into the game, the rain was pouring down and made it a hard one to play. However, the game was to end dramatically.

The clock was already past the 90 minute-mark and the score-sheet still showed 0-0 when Jun Suzuki crossed the ball into Giravanz’s box. Veteran Hiroyoshi Kuwabara tried to clear it with a header, but the ball slipped off his head and made it unreachable for keeper Hiroki Mizuhara, so Avispa could name themselves the winners in the first Fukuoka-Derby ever with the luckiest goal you can get for a victory.

 

4TH DERBY – FIRST GIRAVANZ-VICTORY
On 19.08.2012, after they lost the first three derbies without scoring a single goal, it was Giravanz’ turn to win their first Fukuoka-Derby. Not just one or two goals, Kitakyushu put four goals behind a poor looking Ryuichi Kamiyama on that day. Especially Jin Hanato, on loan from Yokohama F. Marinos at that time, and local hero Tomoki Ikemoto gave their fans a good show and Avispa a hard time. Hanato assisted Ikemoto’s 1-0 goal and Ikemoto gave the cross to Hanato’s header which made the score 2-0. Hanato also scored the 3-1 goal with a beautiful left shot from outside the box.

Hisashi Jogo scored a rocket under the bar just before half-time and Jun Suzuki gave Avispa-Fans a glimmer of hope with his goal in added-time, but Satoshi Tokiwa smashed them just a few moments later. A beautiful left-footed shot from far outside the box, what Japanese commentators likely called a “Midoru Shuto”, middle shoot, ended the game. Tokiwa saw that Kamiyama was standing far too wide in front of his goal, so he put the ball well over the Avispa-Keeper into the net and gave Giravanz a 4-2 win.

 

6TH DERBY – FULL FORCE FROM GIRAVANZ…..

6th derby, 06.10.2013, Honjo Stadium Kitakyushu. Daisuke Sakata gave Avispa the lead via a PK half an hour into the game after Shuto Nakahara was fouled inside the box. In the second half, Giravanz started to fully attack Kamiyama’s goal. Koki Kotegawa had the first big chance with a well taken free-kick, but it was saved well by Kamiyama. Next, Tsuyoshi Hakkaku challenged Avispa’s goalkeeper with a shot from outside the box. The ball bounced off the turf and was tricky, but Kamiyama saved it.

Another free-kick, another chance for Kotegawa, but Kamiyama denied him again when he reached the ball which hit the bar. Kitakyushu gave Avispa and Kamiyama no time to rest with a powerful header from Daiki Watari which was tricky to save as the ball bounced just in front of Kamiyama again. Substitute Hideo Oshima had another good chance for the yellow ones, but couldn’t put enough power behind the ball, so it was an easier one for Avispa’s last man to grab.

With full force on Avispa’s goal at added time, Giravanz fell to a counter attack by Avispa. Daisuke Ishizu sent away Go Nishida who chipped the ball over Giravanz’ keeper Hiroyuki Takeda into the goal and made it 2-0 in the 96th minute to end it and give Avispa the 5th victory in six derbies.

8TH DERBY – GOALS GALORE!
Eight goals in 90 minutes, five in 29! Crazy moments we saw at the 8th derby on 06.09.2014 in Kitakyushu.

Giravanz scored through a well played long pass from Koki Kazama and an ice-cold finish from captain Tomoki Ikemoto. Midfielder Yohei Naito scored a super goal after an attempt from Kamiyama to clear the ball with a wide kick failed miserably and landed in front of Naito. He fired it straight back and into the Avispa goal to give Kitakyushu a comfortable 2-0-lead for the second half.

We don’t know what Avispa coach Marijan Pusnik said to the players, but Avispa came out of the dressing room with a flash. Just after the break, Eijiro Takeda passed a free-kick, which everybody expected to come into the box, directly to Shunsuke Tsutsumi to bomb the ball, like Naito, from far outside the box into the net. A header from Hisashi Jogo, another fired ball from Takeshi Kanamori, and further goals Noriyoshi Sakai and Shoki Hirai brought the wasps back with five goals in 29 minutes! Ikemoto scored his second of the game for Giravanz in the last minute to give the derby a final result of 3-5!

 

10TH DERBY – JUN’S MAGIC LEFT FOOT
Suprise! We take a look at a derby at the Level5-Stadium in Hakata, Fukuoka City. On 08.07.2015, we saw the last Fukuoka-Derby so far. Too bad the derby was scheduled on a Wednesday, so just 7.082 people saw the game, which was definitely not enough when you look at the game and the final score of 4-2. Avispa came out strong and grabbed the early lead in the seventh minute. A cross from Shunsuke Tsutsumi found the head of lonesome Takeshi Kanamori who nodded the ball past keeper Ayaki Suzuki into the net. The second goal for Avispa came after a high ball. Tsutsumi threw a wide ball into the box which found the head of Lee Kwang-Seon who sent it directly to Hisashi Jogo. Jogo rose higher than Koki Kazama and there was no chance for Suzuki again.

Giravanz scored a similar goal, not with the head, but with the foot. Throw-in from Daichi Kawashima, Ryu Komatsu sent it to Shota Inoue who slid the ball past Ryuichi Kamiyama. Inoue had another good chance just before the whistle, but the ball just landed just wide of the net.

The second half had much nicer goals. Just seconds into the second, Jun Suzuki started his magic show. Suzuki scored the kind of free-kick which makes any goalkeeper look like the unluckiest person in the stadium, because the ball wasn’t touched by anybody. Just a few minutes later, Suzuki scored one of the, if not the most beautiful goal for Avispa that year. From slightly outside left side of the area, Suzuki, with his left foot, shot into the upper right corner of the goal. No chance for Ayaki Suzuki. Just wonderful. But also Giravanz had beauty to show the fans. Koki Kotegawa crossed the ball from the right side into the box to find Inoue, but a flying Kamiyama cleared it with both fists just to give Kotegawa another chance to bring it back. His cross was deflected by Masashi Kamekawa and sunk into the goal. Just logical that another crazy goal by Kitakyushu was the last one at a Fukuoka-Derby so far.

 

LET’S HEAR FROM THE FANS

I asked Avispa fan Jen Perogyo from Canada, Giravanz fan Giravanz Wombat from Australia and Bryan Cooper from England, also an Avispa fan, who all live on Kyushu and are quite regular visitors to their teams, about their personal thoughts on the derby and the opposite side.

Have you ever been to a Fukuoka Derby and which one was your first? When you’ve been to multiple, which one was your favourite? 

Jen Perogyo
I have been to a few. My first one was at Level 5 in 2012, after Avispa had been relegated back to J2. My favourite was probably last year’s away at Honjo. It was my first one at Honjo and it was great! They do a kids’ Avispa-Giravanz game beforehand and we started cheering for the kids hours beforehand!

Giravanz Wombat
I’ve been to a couple of Fukuoka derbies. The first one was a Giravanz home game in the 2012 season. Actually I think it was my first ever Giravanz game. I had been to a few Avispa games before at Level 5 stadium but I wouldn’t have called myself a supporter. I sat with the away Avispa fans that day, but I watched as a neutral. After the game I thought Giravanz was the team for me.

Bryan Cooper
They’ve been high scoring affairs recently, but last year’s 4-2 win wasn’t just great entertainment, it was a crucial springboard for our J2 promotion push. It gave us some much needed confidence and momentum going into the latter stages of the season.

What do you think about the Rivalry? Fierce or friendly?

Jen Perogyo
I think that in general it’s friendly but there are some people on the Giravanz side who are trying very hard to make it fierce like the Tosu-Avispa rivalry. Last year at Honjo in April there was a little scuffle before the game which made the rounds on Twitter and Youtube, as some of the Giravanz supporters started shouting things at the Avispa players when they arrived. Also they chanted “Avispa Fujieda” to the tune of the “Avispa Fukuoka” chant, trying to point out that Giravanz is a homegrown team, while Avispa Fukuoka started as the (Shizuoka) Fujieda Blux in the 90s. The fans were the ones who got together to bring Blux down to Fukuoka, and Avispa fans are not ashamed of this at all! So it didn’t exactly have the intended effect! I think that the people who are behind the scuffle and chant are probably the people who were involved with the “buchikurase” issue last year so I am not sure if they are around this year.

I think other than this most people enjoy the friendly rivalry. Avispa has the longest history in that area for pro soccer, so lots of Nagasaki, Oita, and Kitakyushu fans cut their teeth on Avispa games I think!

Giravanz Wombat
It’s no where near as heated as some other J-derbies, but fans certainly don’t want to lose.

Bryan Cooper
This may be an unpopular answer, but true rivalry doesn’t seem to even exist in Japanese soccer. While that’s obviously infinitely preferable to the monstrous scenes we saw in Euro 2016, theatrical villainy does add something to the drama of sport. I feel incredibly safe watching J League games, and that’s wonderful, but 90 minutes of polite applause and choreographed chanting is no substitute for passion. In my humble opinion rivalry is too ‘friendly’ in Japan, but hey I’d still take it over a trip to Millwall.

How is the media-coverage before the derby? (City-wide/ Prefecture-wide/Kyushu-wide)

Jen Perogyo
Where I am in southern Kyushu there is not a word in the media before or after. But within Fukuoka there is a lot made on the radio and sports shows about the derby.

Giravanz Wombat
It gets mentioned in the paper and on the radio a little. But coverage is nothing compared to anything about baseball in Fukuoka.

Bryan Cooper
I don’t pay attention to mainstream media, but Avispa do a great job of publicizing all games around the city and there’s a lot of well informed independent fan accounts on social media (@perogies_gyoza, @giravanzwombat and yourself to name a few) that generate lots of good content.
How are your thoughts about the other team? (good/neutral/bad?)

Jen Perogyo
I have a soft spot for Giravanz. I like all the Kyushu teams except Tosu of course 🙂 They all have great sportsmanship, and cute mascots. I loved the fireworks special summer uniform Giravanz had last year, my favourite short-term uniform ever. I can’t wait for the new Kitakyushu stadium to be built. I hope Avispa stays in J1 and there isn’t a J2 Fukuoka derby there for a long long time. (pipe dream!)

Giravanz Wombat
I like Avispa. I sometimes go to their games and I always hope they do well.

Bryan Cooper
It’s sad that both teams are at the wrong ends of their respective divisions. Ideally Giravanz and Avispa would both be in J1, as the derbies they bring generates great publicity and business for both clubs. Naturally I’m pleased Avispa are above their rivals, but I’d hate to see them tumble into J3.

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If you could pick one player from the other team, which one would you pick & why?

Jen Perogyo
Morimu 🙂 (Kota Morimura)
Sorry, that’s a joke because he played for Giravanz and Avispa! Seriously though, Hara of course. He scores some amazing goals!!

Giravanz Wombat
If I had to pick one, maybe Kamiyama. We need a decent keeper now. But it would be too weird!

Bryan Cooper
We’re short on depth up front at the moment so ideally we’d take a striker but Giravanz’s strikers all seem the wrong side of 30! Thus I’d probably go for Koken Kato. He plays in defensive midfield and I would literally welcome anyone with two legs and a pulse to replace Danilson.

BOTH CLUB-PLAYERS

DF – Toru Miyamoto
Avispa (2001-2009) 190 games / 5 goals | Giravanz (2011-2015) 130 games / 2 goals
The DF-Allrounder from Shimonoseki was a fan-favourite at both fanbases.
Nine and a half seasons he played for Avispa and five for Giravanz and past the 100 game-mark at both teams easily. Like at Avispa, Miyamoto had a hard time to make it to the pitch in his last seasons at Kitakyushu, but with 320 games in all for both clubs, he is by far the “Fukuoka-Record-Player” and i’m sure he will hold this title for a very long time. After his retirement in 2015, he’s now a member of the coaching-staff of Avispa’s U-18.
His goal in the derby against Sagan Tosu in 2008 from half of the field will never be forgotten.

DF – Satoshi Nagano
Avispa (2005-2009) 105 / 2 goals | Giravanz (2010-2012) 68 games / 2 goals
The Fukuoka-native center back joined Avispa from Fukuoka University in 2005. After five seasons in Fukuoka with a short loan-term to Tokyo Verdy in 2006, Nagano joined newly promoted Kitakyushu in 2010. In 2011, he was frequently used as a center forward by Giravanz, but just was able to score twice for the yellow-red ones. After leaving Kitakyushu in 2012, Nagano headed for and is still playing at Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima FC and promoted to Thai Premier League with the club in 2014.

MF – Wellington
Avispa (2009) 26 games / 0 goals | Giravanz (2010) 25 games / 0 goals
A regular starter at the beginning of 2009, Wellington had trouble through the season to hold his place, especially in the second part of the year, so the Brazilian was released after just one year.
At Giravanz, Wellington was a regular starter for most of the season, but also stayed just one season to left for his home country in 2011.
Fun Fact: He never won a game with Giravanz. At the only victory that season (1-0 vs Tokyo Verdy), he was on bench for 90 minutes.

MF – Shuto Nakahara
Giravanz (2011-2012) 5 Games / 1 goal | Avispa (since 2013) 103 games / 3 goals
The Kyushu-native from Kagoshima made his first steps in professional football for Giravanz when he played there in 2011 & 2012 as a designated player from University of Teacher Education in Fukuoka. Didn’t play in 2011, he finally made it in 2012 and scored his first goal in his third game against Ehime FC. In 2013, he signed a pro-contract at Avispa and became a starting player and the favourite player of new coach Marijan Pusnik immidiatly which brought him the nickname “Manager”. He just missed six games in two seasons in total.
After Jun Suzuki and Toshiya Sueyoshi rejoined in 2015, Nakahara couldn’t hold his place in the starting team, but always was a part of Ihara’s 18 men-squad. He succsessfully replaced the injured Suzuki at the end of the season and through the Play-Offs. After Danilson and Yuta Mikado joined the club, currently it’s much harder for Shuto to make it to the squad at J1.

MF – Kota Morimura
Giravanz (2011-2013) 87 games / 7 goals | Avispa (2014-2015) 33 games / 1 goal
“Morimu” joined Giravanz from Mito and made it to the first team in no time only missed five games in 2011 and played most of his games full 90 minutes. A year later, he had a hard time and just made 19 appereances, but in 2013, the left winger came back strong and played 32 games. When Morimura joined the neighbour in the west, there was nothing more for him than the substitute role unfortunately. His maybe best game he showed versus Thespa in 2014. An totally outplayed Avispa in the first half turned it arround when Morimura and Daisuke Ishizu came in for the second. Five minutes before the end, he assisted Noriyoshi Sakai’s equalizer and scored the winning goal, assisted by Sakai, in the end. After just seven minutes in total at the first half of J2 2015, Morimura was transfered to J3-side FC Machida Zelvia. He had great succsess in Machida and got promoted to J2 for season 2016.

FW – Hiroyuki Hayashi
Avispa (2002-2007) 107 games / 23 goals | Giravanz (2011-2012) 54 games / 11 goals
The physical strong forward, who could be Hisashi Jogo’s twin-brother when you look at some photos, had his best year for Avispa in 2003 when he was just 19 years old scoring eleven goals in 31 games. Just a substitute for the most of his time at Giravanz, Hayashi had a good time especially in 2011 when he scored nine goals in 31 appearances. After season 2012 he retired from active football. Gained some more pounds over the last years, he still got a strong bond with Avispa where he participate in last years Avispa 20th anniversary game and was one of the coaches at Avispa’s professonal guided U-12 camp lately.

 

OVERALL

Since 2010 we saw just winners and losers in the ten Fukuoka-Derbies with exciting performances from both teams, seeing Avispa winning eight and Giravanz two out of them. With those eight wins, we also see Avispa leading the score-sheet with 20 goals to eleven, but Giravanz scored the more beautiful ones i have to add.

73.714 people in total have watched the derbies at the two stadia. With 10.287 fans, the second derby, the first one at Level5-Stadium in Fukuoka, was the best attended so far. The derby in general has had to deal with bad weather quite often and the last two derbies at Level5 were scheduled in mid-week which always guarantees a drop in numbers.

Best goalscorers in the derby are two club-legends. Avispa’s “King” Hisashi Jogo is leading the table with four goals followed by Kitakyushu’s hero Tomoki Ikemoto and Avispa’s Jun Suzuki with three goals each.

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In 2011 and 2016, we didn’t see a derby, because Avispa played in J1 these years.

Will we see the derby in 2017?

Well, both teams are in a quite dangerous situation in their leagues as Avispa seem to fighting windmills against the relegation from J1 League, and Giravanz is battling with teams like Sanuki, Gifu and Kanazawa against the fall into J3 League. So, it’s still in the clouds, but not impossible at this point of the season that we see them playing against each other next year again. For sure, the Giravanz camp would be much happier to see the game in 2017 than the Avispa supporters meaning they were able to hold the league in the end and could welcome Fukuoka to their beautiful brand new stadium on the shore of Kokurakita-ku which will be ready for next season.

Have a look: http://www.giravanz.jp/stadium/new/

It will not become an “iconic” derby as the ones like Iwata vs Shimizu or Gamba vs Cerezo maybe, but I think it’s a good derby for Fukuoka prefecture and Kyushu, even if baseball will be always be the biggest thing in Fukuoka. Looking at the football, the fans like it and there’s always a great atmosphere and good entertainment when the game is on. As Jen Perogyo said before, I also think most of the fans see this derby and the rivalry of the clubs in general as a friendly rivalry. A lot of Avispa fans have a heart for the other Kyushu teams as well (ok, not that much for Sagan Tosu), so many of them also just want good things for Giravanz to happen as they’re also a part of their home prefecture.

A huge thank you to Jen Perogyo, giravanzwombat and Bryan Cooper for taking their time for the interview!

Yes! And I’d like to thank those who participated in this piece as well. If you want to follow them on Twitter, you can at the following handles:

Most of all, I’d like to thank Mr.Wasp himself for the incredible research & detail that has gone into this piece. It really is a fantastic effort – let’s hope his beloved Avispa can put the same amount of effort into their relegation survival fight!

 

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