JEF United Chiba manager Kiyama to step down


JEF United Chiba manager Takashi Kiyama will step down at the end of the season after failing to steer the club back into the top flight, the J. League second-division side said Wednesday.

Relegated in 2009, Chiba scraped into the playoffs after finishing fifth in the table. They thrashed Yokohama FC 4-0 in the semis and needed only a draw in the final last Friday to secure a return to the first division, but the two-time League Cup champions lost 1-0 to Oita Trinita, former JEF striker Takenori Hayashi scoring the winner moments before the final whistle.

“We were aiming for a return to J1 but failed to achieve our goal and I feel very much responsible for that. I am sorry to everyone that has supported us,” Kiyama said in a club statement.

“I really hope the team can get promotion to the first division next season.”

The 40-year-old Kiyama had two years at the helm at Mito Hollyhock and was assistant coach at Shimizu S-Pulse in 2011 before taking charge of Chiba this season.

Kiyama will remain in charge through Chiba’s Emperor’s Cup campaign. JEF have been drawn at home to non-league Fukushima United in the fourth round on Dec. 15.

Iwabuchi switches teams


Nineteen-year-old Japan women’s national team striker Mana Iwabuchi is moving to German second-division club Hoffenheim, her Japanese team NTV Beleza said Wednesday.

Iwabuchi, who helped Nadeshiko Japan win the Women’s World Cup in Germany last year and was also a member of the squad that won the silver medal at the London Olympics the past summer, is set to leave for Germany in January after the national championship.

“I got great experience at the (London) Olympics and set myself the target of becoming a key player (for Japan),” Iwabuchi said in a club statement. “I have decided to place myself in an environment where I can practice against big and fast foreign players in order to achieve that.”

Takashi Usami plays for Hoffenheim’s men’s team in the Bundesliga top flight.