Friday, 04 December 2020

 

 


Gainare Tottori is the new name for the club that, until recently, has gone by the simple name of SC Tottori. In our view, this change is actually a good one, since it helps to re-establish the precedent of adopting a unique team name and identity which is connected to the home town and its history. In recent years there has been a trend towards "understated simplicity", in which clubs simply append initials to the name of their home region -- a trend perpetuated with comparative success by teams like "Ehime FC", "FC Gifu" and "Tochigi SC". However, now that the J.League and JFL are filling up with "FCs" and "SCs", this stylization has lost any appeal it may once have had in terms of understatement and "uniqueness". Indeed, "FC" is starting to grate on the ear. Nowadays, the adoption of a plain vanilla name such as "Mytown FC" simply leaves the impression that the club officials are short on imagination and creativity.

If Gainare Tottori is trying to set a new trend, they have done a good job of showing potential imitators how it should be done. The choice of name is not only creative, and particularly representative of the area where the team is based, but it also has strong fan support, having been selected from among several candidate names by popular vote. "Gainare" has the advantage of sounding vaguely Italian, while appealing to regional pride. The term is a combination of the Tottori-area slang term "gaina" --which has various applications but generally is used to mean "big", "great", "impressive", or "strong" -- and "nare", the emphatic form of the verb "to become". In other words, it uses a unique local slang expression to generate the meaning "Become great!" or "Be strong!".

Gainare Tottori is aggressively pursuing J.League membership, and expects to reach the J2 level no later than 2010. There are several factors that count in their favour as a good candidate for promotion. The first is that they have a fine home stadium -- the 16,000-seat Tottori Bird Stadium. Although the facility will require some renovation work in order to bring it up to the standard required to host J2 matches, Bird Stadium has, over the years, staged a number of matches in both the J-League and Emperor's Cup.

Second, Tottori has an established history as an independent club, incorporated separately from any parent company and not dependent on any single corporate sponsor. The team was formed at the grassroots level, under the name Tottori Teachers Soccer Group, and the club's rise to their current position -- knocking on the door to the country's elite club of football professionals -- is a major success story in grassroots football development. This independent status is rightly a source of pride. The team managed to fulfill all of the organizational requirements and earned J.League associate member status in 2008, and came within a whisker of achieving their goal two years ahead of time. But a loss on the final day of the season, coupled with a draw by rivals Fagiano Okayama, left Gainare in fifth place in the JFL -- just shy of the cut-off line for promotion..

Gainare Tottori's history has had its ups and downs. Under the name SC Tottori, which the team adopted in 1989, they earned a reputation as the San-in region yo-yo, as they constantly moved up and down between regional and prefectural leagues. It was not until1998 that the team managed to hold on to a spot in the Chugoku regional league. In 2000, though, the club made a huge step forward, coming from nowhere to capture the Chugoku League title and fight their way through the playoff matches to the JFL.

This sudden advance actually caused the team management considerable headaches, particularly in terms of team finances. Although attempts were made to mobilise the community in support of the local club, the results on the pitch were poor. SC Tottori finished dead last in their inaugural season. Although the team has made modest improvements since then, the trend towards expansion of the professional football structure in Japan began to gather pace in 2004 and 2005, and SC Tottori has found it difficult to keep up. While other provincial teams like Otsuka Pharmaceutical (now Tokushima Vortis), Thespa Kusatsu and Ehime FC were getting promoted to J2, the club from the Japan Sea coast has been slipping back towards the middle of the table. The need for across-the-board changes was obvious, if SC Tottori was to avoid being left behind.

In 2005, the team adopted a more aggressive tack, and issued announcements describing its plan to earn J2 membership. This was followed up with a strong public relations effort, including the contest to select a name, logo marks and mascots for the club. Strong community pride and grassroots support can go a long way towards offsetting any disadvantage in finances that a team from a small town, such as Tottori, must face. The initial indications suggest that Gainare is doing a good job in this respect. In 2008 the team began making serious efforts to attract former J.Leaguers to the ranks in order to achieve their goals. The additions included former Japan NT defender Norio Omura as well as Hiroshi Kichise and Tomoyuki Yoshino. The changes that the team made at the start of 2008 certainly made a big difference as Gainare advanced from a 14th-place finish in 2007 to fifth place, and a near-miss at J2 admission.

The team's efforts inthe years leading up to its name change proved that Gainare was on the right track. But unlike some of the other J.League wannabes, which managed to leap from the JFL to the J2 in just one or two seasons, the team from the rocky northwest coast of Japan would find its path to the J.League a rocky one, as well. The 2008 season started out well enough, but the aging veterans that the team brought in to provide a boost in quality were unable to maintain their stamina over the full 34-game season, and after fading down the stretch, Tottori finished a disappointing fifth - one spot short of its goal.

The following year was much the same. In 2009, Tottori picked up some more veterans and J.League castoffs, including former Jubilo Iwata captain Toshihiro Hattori, and once again made a strong start. But as we discuss in our history of the JFL, the 2009 season proved to be a year when the "company teams" got tired of accomodating prospective pro clubs, and decided to "push back". Three company clubs - Sagawa Shiga, Yokogawa Musashino and Sony Sendai - posted a 1-2-3 finish, leaving just one spot for a J.League wannabe to earn promotion. New Wave Kitakyushu narrowly beat Gainare to the chequered flag, and once again the team from Tottori fell one spot short of their goal.

The 2010 season dawned with expectations in Tottori greatly reduced. Fans were starting to grow impatient, and after two years of very strong attendance, the crowds were beginning to drop off. Gainare management realised that they had to make a final, successful push for J2 admission or they risked losing the momentum and support that had been building in the region for almost a decade. The club did a very thorough job of scouring the rosters of J2 clubs for players who were eager to get regular playing time, and were still young enough to give a strong contribution over an entire 34-game season. In addition to the returning veterans, like Hattori and Naoya Umeda, the team signed former Urawa Reds speedster Masayuki Okano, Yutaro Abe, who was at one time a very promising Yokohama Marinos striker but whose career failed to take off, and several journeymen with ties to Shizuoka and Hattori - Yasushi Kita, Kiyomitsu Kobari, Yasushi Mio and Tomoyuki Yoshino.

This time, there was little competition left in the form of future J.League aspirants. The next wave of teams was just beginning to make the preparations for associate membership. The company teams also were a bit less impressive than they had been in 2009, and at long last, the path to J2 was wide open. Gainare took the JFL lead from the very outset of the season, and coasted to an easy JFL title - fifteen points ahead of second-place Sagawa Shiga. As a new decade dawned, J.League football had finally arrived in the San-in region, and for the first time in history, every one of Japan's major geographical regions was represented. With their ascension to the J2, in 2011, Gainare launched a new era in Japanese football.

Sadly, Tottori "became big" just as the J.League was opening up to smaller clubs with the creation of a third division. Three years after Gainare joined the J2, the third division was launched and Tottori officially became the first team relegated to the J3. The San-in region has always been a slow-paced, small-town sort of place, so the third level of professional football may just be the best place for them. After a slump deep into the J3, Gainare recovered a bit, and has finished in the top-half for two years in a row. Without a bit more fiinancial backing and fan support, another stint in J2 may be relatively short.


Team Results: 2001-2010

Year Rank Pts W D L GF GA G.Dif
2001 16 8 2 2 26 23 90 -67
2002 13 15 4 3 10 18 33 -15
2003 10 37 10 7 13 45 50 -5
2004 14 22 5 7 18 36 62 -26
2005 12 33 9 6 15 40 58 -18
2006 12 32 6 14 12 57 59 -2
2007 14 39 10 9 15 42 51 -9
2008 5 57 17 6 11 57 37 +20
2009 5 56 16 8 10 65 37 +28
2010 1 77 24 5 5 64 31 +33
  = SC Tottori   = Gainare Tottori

Team Results: 2011-Present

Year Rank Pts W D L GF GA G.Dif
2011 (J2) 19 31 8 7 23 36 60 -24
2012 (J2) 20 38 11 5 26 33 78 -45
2013 (J2) 22 31 5 16 21 38 47 -9
2014 (J3) 4 53 14 11 8 34 25 +9
2015 (J3) 6 50 14 8 14 47 41 +6
2016  " 15 30 8 6 16 30 47 -17
2017  " 17 21 4 9 19 31 63 -32
2018  " 3 53 15 8 9 61 47 +14
2019  " 7 50 14 8 12 49 59 -10