The J. League this season has launched two new projects. The first is to help players look for a job when they retire from the game. The second is the J. League Academy — a developing program for players aged five to 21.

News photoKazu Miura may be one of those looking for a career in coaching when he retires.

According to a survey conducted by the Japan Players Association in 2000, 76.2 percent of J. League players in Division One and Two said they worried about their post-playing life.

Every year, just before the season ends, the Japan Football Association issues a list of players available for transfer.

For those that remain unsigned the future is unclear.

Some may turn to coaching, some may get a job in TV, while others may run a restaurant or a bar. But how do they go about looking for a new job?

Most J. League players either turn professional straight from high school or graduate from the youth team of a J. League club. They spend all their time in the game until they retire from the sport — generally when they reach their late 20s or early 30s.

Another JPA survey showed that more than 90 percent of rookie players want an organization in place that can help them find information about life after soccer.

The “second-career supporting system” is expected to provide players with various services such as job counseling, job training, guidance on job hunting and information on business schools and universities for those who wish to study.

The system is very similar to the one operated by the English Professional Footballers’ Association, and although it is still in its infancy, the hope is that within three years it will be handed over to the JPA.

For players at the opposite end of the spectrum — starting out in the game — the J. League has established academies at seven clubs this year. They are the Kashima Antlers, FC Tokyo, Yokohama F. Marinos, Jubilo Iwata, Nagoya Grampus Eight, Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The J. League is, of course, aiming to expand the system to all of its clubs in the future.

The academies will offer a development system for players from five-years-old to professional level, with the hope that players will eventually graduate into the senior team of their chosen club. However the academies will also offer a variety of classes for those players that cannot make the top grade.

“If we can find one good talented player out of 50 through the academy system, that’d be good,” said J. League chairman Saburo Kawabuchi. “But the academies have to look after the remaining 49 young players.

“All the major European soccer nations have a similar system in place. I don’t think Japan will be a Top 10 team without establishing such a development system.”

As the academies will have a number of classes based on the ages of the children, it will require a number of coaches.

The J. League hopes that this will be a opportunity for its players to pass down their knowledge to the coming generations, in addition to providing them with a job once their playing careers are over.

Both schemes will benefit Japanese soccer in the future and are a good way to mark the 10th anniversary of the Japanese professional soccer league.

With the World Cup raising the profile of the game in Japan the J. League is hopeful even more children will want to take up the game, and make use of its academies.

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From the games played over the weekend, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is the comeback of Jubilo Iwata and Japan midfielder Hiroshi Nanami following a knee injury.

Nanami came off the bench at the beginning of the second half and played for 45 minutes as Jubilo edged Vissel Kobe 1-0 on Saturday.

Playing in an official J. League game for the first time since the first leg of the Nabisco Cup semifinals against the Kashima Antlers on Sept. 26, Nanami controlled the pace of the Jubilo attack and had three shots on goal.

“I didn’t have any fears going into the game. The important thing for me is that I played in the game,” Nanami commented.

His teammate and forward Masashi Nakayama said, “He makes the difference to the team.”

The bad news concerns Kashima and Japan forwards Atsushi Yanagisawa and Takayuki Suzuki.

The two players looked out of shape and struggled as the Antlers lost 2-0 on Saturday against Vegalta Sendai. Yanagisawa has scored just once in five games this season while Suzuki remains scoreless. The team, ranked 11th, has so far scored only five goals in all against seven goals given away.

Antlers manager Toninho Cerezo was not a happy man.

“I expect them to do something extra as they do for the national team,” said Cerezo. “Move to the right position when an opponent clears the ball, recover quickly from a mistake, create space to play in, call for the ball, and hit it with good control. . . . I could name about 30 things a forward should be doing but the most important thing is to find the net.”

But the former Brazil international pointed out that what made him even more disappointed was the attitude of the two strikers.

Cerezo said the two strikers at one stage seemed more interested in complaining to the referee about a “foul” than in actually playing the game.

“I’ve never seen that before. They should have gone back to the game. That really shocked me today,” Cerezo said.

The Antlers will visit Jubilo next Saturday.

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