Japanese Football Evolves Under Foreign Guidance
November 25, 1998
Philippe Troussier working with the Japanese nationals. (Jiji Press)
French coach Philippe Troussier has been hired to lead the Japanese national team's drive toward the football World Cup finals in 2002. Troussier is the third foreign head coach, following the Netherlands' Marius Johan Ooft (1992-93) and Brazil's Paulo Roberto Falcao (1994). Many are hoping to see the national side improve even more under Troussier and perform well in the 2002 tournament, to be hosted by Japan and the Republic of Korea.
A History of Foreign Involvement
In 1993 pro football made its debut in Japan with the birth of the J. League. But at the time, there were few experienced Japanese coaches to assume the mantle of leadership, and a host of foreign coaches were brought in to lead the way. As the J. League entered its sixth season in 1998, 11 of its 18 teams were headed by foreign coaches. The head coaches and assistants hail from many different countries: Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Morocco, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia.
In the JSL era, most coaches were players who retired from active competition and coached on the side while working for the companies sponsoring their teams. When the J. League kicked off, however, some team owners hoping to raise the level of play looked abroad for coaches with the experience and knowledge to teach the fundamentals, techniques, and strategies of top-flight competition. Many of their teams saw marked improvement under foreign coaches, racking up strong records in league play. The Kashima Antlers, for instance, with playing--and later coaching--help from Brazilian legend Zico, grew into one of the strongest sides in the J. League.
Foreign Coaches Not Always a Plus
Recently, there has been a shift toward hiring Japanese coaches over foreigners, who require considerable extraneous costs. But many Japanese coaches still lack international experience. The nurturing of skilled leadership is not an overnight process. Many argue that Japanese football is still in the developmental stage where foreign guidance is essential. But whatever their opinion, many agree that the most important thing for the Japanese national team is the presence of an experienced coach with a long-range perspective geared toward the 2002 World Cup.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.