Saturday, 24 October 2020

 


 

Giravanz Kitakyushu traces its independent history to 2001, when they cast off the Mitsubishi "company team" structure to become an independent, community based club. As Mitsubishi Chemical Kurosaki, the team was a founding member of the Kyushu League in 1973. Mitsubishi Chemical won the Kyu League championship seven times over the years. However, by the 1990s the team found itself crowded out by better-organised and more aggressively financed clubs, such as Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu. Like these two predecessors, the team set its sights on one day earning a spot in the J.League, under the magnificent moniker of "New Wave Kitakyushu". Some might have entertained doubts about whether it was feasable, considering that the city of Kitakyushu is sandwiched between Oita and Fukuoka (just 20 km from the latter city), which already have J.League clubs of their own. But New Wave forged ahead, and their aspirations were quickly met with success.

In Japan, history often is a more important factor than geography in determining attitudes, even today. Kitakyushu City has always been more closely tied to Yamaguchi prefecture, just across the straits of Shimonoseki, than to the rest of Fukuoka prefecture. For both historical and political reasons, Kitakyushu is very much a separate entity from Fukuoka. Considering the tremendous support for football in other parts of Kyushu, it is by no means improbable that New Wave could establish its own separate identity and support base in the J.League. This might complicate the financial picture for northern Kyushu-based clubs trying to achieve success in the professional ranks, but then again, it also could stimulate even fiercer loyalty and competitive rivalry among the four clubs of northern Kyushu (Avispa, Trinita, Sagan Tosu and New Wave)

Before this issue could be considered, however, New Wave first had to make it into the JFL. The club strengthened its squad considerably in 2006, with the addition of J.League veterans such as former Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Albirex Niigata midfielder Hiroyoshi Kuwabara, Verdy Kawasaki and Gamba Osaka veteran Shingi Ono, and Jun Mizukoshi, whose journeyman career included a stint in the Netherlands second division as well as at Albirex and Ventforet Kofu. After Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu made the jump to the JFL, in 2005 and 2006, respectively, the task became considerably easier for New Wave. They won the Kyushu League title in 2007, and then advanced in the Nationwide Regional Champions Tournament, entering the JFL for the first time in 2008.

The 2009 season brought a renewed surge of effort and interest within Kitakyushu City, and the team charged towards the top of the table, ultimately outpacing more established candidates for promotion, and earning a spot as the lone addition to the J2 at the start of the 2010 season. Unfortunately, though, J.League commitments can be extremely severe and one of them -- the need to register the team name as a trademark -- proved to be a troublesome hurdle. The term "New Wave" was simply viewed as too common to be granted protection as a trademark, so Kitakyushu were forced to adopt a new name.

In a typically inexplicable bit of "logic", the management decided to adopt the image of a sunflower as their organizing concept, and cobbled together a name consisting of the Italian words for "sunflower" (Girasole) and "advance" (Avanza), to create the name "Giravanz Kitakyushu". As disappointing as this new name might be to fans of the former New Wave, the team is a very exciting addition to the J2, bringing an even higher level of local rivalry to the football scene in Kyushu. There was no real surprise when Giravanz finished dead last in the J2, during their inaugural season. However, there were some signs in the latter stages of the year that they might be improving in terms of experience and professionalism. Fan support wasstrong, and the team seemed to be gradually achieving stability, just above J2 midtable. 

Unfortunately, the 2016 season was an unmitigated disaster, which saw Giravanz plummet back down to last place, and suffer relegation to J3 in the 2017 season The Sunflowers blossomed, but appeared to shrivel up when the first bit of adversity hit. Fans were apparently too impatient to see success, and began drifting away to rival teams in Northern Kyushu.

The Sunflowers needed two full seasons to reorganize, but eventually they managed to put the house in order, and secured a J3 title in 2019. Even so, there are growing indications that the crowded football landscape of Kyushu cannot support its many teams -- at least not at such a high level. Giravanz needs to find a way to distinguish themselves from neighbors like Sagan Tosu and Avispa Fukuoka, or they will face persistent financial hurdles to further progress. 


 

Team Results: 2002-2009

Year Rank Pts GP W D L GF GA G.Dif
2002 (Kyu Lg.) 7 18 18 5 3 10 24 39 -15
2003 (Kyu Lg.) 4 42 22 13 0 9 65 46 +19
2004 (Kyu Lg.) 6 -- 18 -- -- -- -- -- --
2005 (Kyu Lg.) 6 33 18 10 3 5 51 30 +21
2006 (Kyu Lg.) 3 36 16 11 3 1 44 23 +21
2007 (Kyu Lg.) 1 54 20 18 1 1 59 8 +41
2008 (JFL) 10 49 34 13 10 11 49 48 +1
2009 (JFL) 4 58 34 16 10 8 49 31 +18

 Team Results: 2010-present

Year Rank Pts GP W D L GF GA G.Dif
2010 19 15 36 1 12 23 20 65 -45
2011 8 58 38 16 10 12 45 46 -1
2012 9 64 42 19 7 16 53 47 +6
2013 16 49 42 13 10 19 50 60 -10
2014 5 65 42 18 11 13 50 50 +0
2015 7 59 42 18 5 19 59 58 +1
2016 22 38 42 8 14 20 43 64 -21
2017 (J3) 9 46 32 13 7 12 44 37 +7
2018 (J3) 17 27 32 6 9 17 22 42 -20
2019 (J3) 1 66 34 19 9 6 51 27 +24