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Shimizu S-Pulse’s proud uninterrupted record as a J. League first-division team came to an end last weekend, but after years of muddled leadership, the club has no one to blame but itself.

S-Pulse’s relegation was rubber-stamped by a 1-0 home defeat to Vegalta Sendai on Saturday, sending the Shizuoka side down to J2 for the first time in history. S-Pulse’s status as one of the J. League’s original 10 clubs — and the only one to grow out of a community rather than a corporation — lent a sadness to the occasion, but in truth it had been coming for some time.

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