Throughout a historically turbulent season, J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai has overseen the league’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, working to ensure the health and safety of its players, coaches, officials and fans.

In an extensive interview with Dan Orlowitz, Murai discussed the decisions taken in the pandemic’s early days, how fans cooperated with rules prohibiting songs or chants, and the financial state of the league and its clubs.

In the past, Murai’s news conferences would rarely draw more than 30 people to J. League HQ. But when the pandemic brought the league to a halt, Murai explains how he had to quickly adapted to the “new normal” — regularly giving briefings to as many as 300 reporters at a time on Zoom.

Takefusa Kubo, welcome to Getafe, 2021 | SVMM
Takefusa Kubo, welcome to Getafe, 2021 | SVMM

Murai also discussed the development and expansion for the league’s lower divisions as well as the league’s role in a rapidly changing Samurai Blue. Murai said he sees 2018 World Cup champion France’s squad, which plays club soccer mostly outside its home country, as a model for Japan’s young stars.

Speaking of which, 19-year-old Japan international Takefusa Kubo has joined Spanish La Liga club Getafe on loan for the rest of the season from Real Madrid. The left-footed attacking midfielder spent the first half of the season on loan at third-place Villarreal but found playing time hard to come by.

Similarly, Samurai Blue midfielder Shoya Nakajima has joined Al Ain on loan from Porto, the Emirates club said Saturday. The 26-year-old signed for Porto last summer from Qatari side Al Duhail on a five-year deal, but he was limited to 16 league appearances last season and four this term at the Portuguese giant.