Wednesday, 02 December 2020

 

Though Zweigen Kanazawa is one of the newest additions to the J.League, entering as one of the founding J3 members in 2014, the team from the picturesque Japan Sea city of Kanazawa has been one of the most impressive performers in recent years. The team was founded way back in the 1980s, under the name "Kanazawa SC", and spent most of the 1990s battling at mid-table with local rivals Teihens FC to determine which of the two clubs was more mediocre. Though Teihens was the only Ishikawa-based club to actually claim the Hokushinetsu League title (in 1991), Kanazawa SC finished higher in the table for most of the decade leading up to 1996. There had been some discussion of a bid for J.League entry by a candidate from Ishikawa and a few half-hearted attempts to create a pro club, including the ill-fated "Ferverosa Ishikawa", but none of these efforts made any headway. In the end, only a minor disaster would galvanize the local base enough to produce a successful J.League candidate.

Ahead of the 1997 season, the Hokushinetsu League decided to reduce the number of teams in that Regional League, as a way of separating weak local amateur groups from the more ambitious and competitive clubs. Unfortunately, this restructuring claimed Kanazawa SC as its most prominent victim. For the next four seasons they were forced to battle even smaller and weaker opposition in the Ishikawa Regional League. By the turn of the century it looked like Kanazawa SC might fold. But as has happened so many times in Japanese football history, this flirtation with disaster actually set the team on course for a dramatic recovery.

For Kanazawa SC the resurgence began in 2000 when the team appointed new management, lured some modest talent from other Hokuetsu-area teams, and finally regained its berth in the Hokushinetsu League. The following season it finished third and in 2004, Kanazawa SC claimed its first-ever Hokushinetsu League title. The momentum was unmistakable, and as more and more local fans jumped on the bandwagon, Kanazawa SC decided to reorganize on a semi-professional model and start laying the groundwork for a J.League bid.

At the end of 2005 an independent corporation was established under the name Ishikawa Football Club Co., Ltd., and persuaded former JEF United star and NHK football commentator Michel Miyazawa to serve as the team's advisor and Technical Director. The following year a competition was held to select a new name to go with its new organization, and the winning suggestion was "Zweigen Kanazawa". The name is derived from the German words "Zwei" (two) and "Gehen" (to go). This was supposed to indicate that the team and its fans would advance together, and set out in search of glory as a professional football club.

It took a while for Zweigen to establish a strong enough base to advance any further. This was partly due to the fact that it had to compete with other budding J.League wannabes like Matsumoto Yamaga and Nagano Parceiro. Throughout the '00s, Zweigen consistently finished in the top four but was unable to repeat their 2004 title success, or to advance into the JFL through postseason playoffs. Only in 2010, after the other Hokushinetsu powerhouses had already made the jump, did Zweigen finally make the jump to the JFL, and start luring a number of former J.Leaguers to support the team's drive for the J.League

Competition in the JFL was just as difficult for the small-town team, and there were signs that the momentum was starting to fade when Zweigen stumbled to a 14th place finish in 2012. Fortunately, at the end of the year the J.League announced its plans to create the J3, and listing the criteria teams needed to meet to join the third division in its inaugural season. While Zweigen's competitiveness on the pitch was a major shortcoming -- due in large part to the small budget and lack of corporate sponsors -- from an organizational perspective it was comparatively well structured and well run. When the Hokkoku Shimbun (the main regional newspaper) threw their sponsorship and financial support behind the team, Zweigen quickly ticked all the boxes except attendance. A surge of local pride carried the team past that hurdle as well, and despite a seventh-place finish in the JFL, Kanazawa was included as a founding member of the J3.

The wave of enthusiasm and momentum that surged through Ishikawa Prefecture in 2013 carried Zweigen to unprecedented success, while coach Hitoshi Morishita -- a former Consadole Sapporo and Jubilo Iwata midfielder -- organized a highly disciplined, goal-stingy unit that amazingly dashed right to the J3 title. Suddenly, the unfancied upstarts from a sleepy corner of northwestern Japan had become a regional sensation. The team finished midtable in the J2 in 2015, and 11th in 2019, suggesting that this was not just a flash in the pan, but might even be the basis for a J1 bid some day. 


 

Team Results: 2001-2012

Year . Rank Pts GP W D L GF GA G.Dif
2001 Reg. 3 13 8 4 1 3 18 13 +3
2002 Reg. 2 18 9 6 0 3 17 6 +11
2003 Reg. 4 18 14 5 3 6 31 21 +10
2004 Reg. 1 28 14 9 1 4 41 19 +22
2005 Reg. 3 32 14 10 2 2 26 15 +11
2006 Reg 4 21 14 6 3 5 33 15 +18
2007 Reg. 4 27 14 9 0 5 35 17 +18
2008 Reg 3 30 14 10 0 4 50 15 +35
2009 Reg. 3 31 14 10 1 3 49 9 +40
2010 JFL 9 50 34 14 8 12 46 41 +5
2011 JFL 7 47 33 13 8 12 49 40 +12
2012 JFL 14 36 32 8 12 12 33 41 -8
2013 JFL 7 50 34 14 8 12 60 48 +12

 

Team Results: 2013-Present

Year Rank Pts W D L GF GA G.Dif
2014 (J3) 1 75 23 6 4 56 20 +36
2015 12 54 12 18 12 46 43 +3
2016 21 39 8 15 19 36 60 -24
2017 17 49 13 10 19 49 67 -18
2018 13 55 14 13 15 52 48 +4
2019 11 61 15 16 11 58 46 +12