Avispa names Imai as new boss

Avispa Fukuoka, which has been relegated to Division Two next season, has named Philippine coach Masataka Imai as new manager, the J. League club said Thursday.

Imai, 42, formerly served as Nagoya Grampus Eight assistant coach in 1998-99, Macao national team assistant coach in 2000 and has managed the Philippine national team from the beginning of this year.

Avispa earlier fired Argentine manager Nestor Omar Piccoli after failing to avoid relegation.

In other news, Vissel Kobe acquired former Japan and Nagoya Grampus Eight midfielder Takashi Hirano from Kyoto Purple Sanga. Hirano was loaned to Jubilo Iwata this past season, where the 27-year-old played in three league games.

Vissel also got Kashiwa Reysol defender Toru Irie on loan for next season, extended the on-loan service period of forward Masayuki Okano from the Urawa Reds for another year and hired midfielder Shigeyoshi Mochizuki on a full transfer. Mochizuki had been on loan to Kobe for the past season. Vissel also sold midfielder Shigeru Morioka to Gamba Osaka.

Meanwhile, Reysol loaned midfielder Naoki Sakai to Consadole Sapporo and the Yokohama F. Marinos acquired Jubilo forward Norihisa Shimizu on a full transfer.