Football Goes East: Business, Culture, and the People's Game in China, Japan, and South Korea

By Wolfram Manzenreiter; John Horne | Go to book overview

5

Japanese football players and the sport talent migration business

Takahashi Yoshio and John Horne


Introduction

Discussion about globalisation and sport has taken off since the early 1990s. One aspect of this has been the migration of sports talent (Maguire 1999). A small, but growing, number of authors have undertaken sociological and historical analyses of the migration of sports talent (Bale and Maguire 1994) and a number of these have focused on football players (Lanfranchi and Taylor 2001; Magee and Sugden 2002). In the 2002 World Cup, four out of the 23 players in the Japanese national team squad were 'migratory players'. In the FIFA Confederation Cup held in 2003, over one-fifth of the national team members were 'migratory'. According to a survey conducted by the national daily newspaper Mainichi Shinbun (2002), 71 per cent of J. League players hoped to play abroad - amongst players under the age of 21, the figure was nearly 85 per cent. In total, since the launching of the J. League in 1993, over 70 Japanese players have moved to foreign football clubs. Whilst Nakata Hidetoshi (at the time of writing, playing for Parma in Italy's Serie A) was estimated by France Football magazine to be the sixth best paid football player in the world (quoted in The Guardian, 7 May 2003:30), to date there has been no sustained discussion of the mobility of Japanese football players in this circuit of sport labour migration.

Recently, some journalistic (Birchall 2000; Moffett 2002) and academic (Horne 1996; Takahashi 2002) accounts of football culture in Japan have appeared in print in English and Horne and Manzenreiter (2002) included accounts of the development of professional football in Korea and Japan and the political and diplomatic significance of the first co-hosted World Cup. With a few exceptions - see for example Chiba et al. (2001), who analysed migrant players in Japan, and Horne with Bleakley (2002) - little has been written about the internationalisation of Japanese football. This chapter thus aims to fill two small gaps in the knowledge base about Japanese football. Firstly, the chapter outlines the main themes of existing literature on football player mobility. Then, using previously unpublished data, it describes the history and geography of the migration of Japanese football players. Three time periods are identified - before the launch of the first professional football league in Japan (the J. League) in 1993, from then until the first appearance of the Japanese national team at the World Cup Finals in 1998,

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