With a proud history stretching back decades, the Saitama side boast one of Japan's largest fan bases and most intimidating home atmospheres.
While the team improved in the mid-90s with the arrival of some top players from Germany, the club hit rock bottom in 1999, when they were relegated to the newly-created J2 at the end of a dramatic season finale. In the last round of that season, the Reds needed to win within 90 minutes to remain in the top flight. They failed to do so, however, as their ‘golden goal’ came in extra time; according to that season’s regulations, such a victory was worth only two points and not enough to guarantee survival.
But from the ashes of that defeat a new breed of Reds were born as their fanatical support quickly willed them back to the top flight in one season. A new state-of-the-art stadium drew even more fans to the stands, and Reds finally clinched their first trophy in 2003 by winning the Nabisco Cup.
From 2005 to 2007, the Reds won a total of five titles: two Emperors Cup, one J.League championship, one Xerox Cup and the prestigious AFC Champions League. The latter gave them a chance to measure themselves against European powerhouse Milan in the semifinal of that year’s FIFA Club World Cup, where they conceded a narrow 1-0 defeat.
Despite failing to capture any trophies since then, Urawa Reds remain the most beloved club in Japan, with strong support both at home and away. In 2008, they averaged an astonishing figure of more than 47,000 spectators per game. Their popularity and uniforms have led to the Reds being known as “the Manchester United of Asia.”
Stuttgart and Germany legend Guido Buchwald joined the Reds in the summer of 1994, playing there for three seasons. Like several other famous European players in the J.League, he returned as manager in 2004 and led Reds to their greatest period of success by capturing the 2006 J1 title and two Emperor’s Cup championships in 2005 and 2006.
Shinji Ono’s superb technique and quick decision-making led to the well-earned nickname of ‘The Genius’. The Shizuoka native played for the Reds from 1998 to 2001 before joining Feyenoord, where he won the 2002 UEFA Cup. He returned to Urawa for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and most recently led Western Sydney Wanderers to the A-League Grand Final in their first season.
Although he spent just two seasons at Saitama Stadium, Brazilian forward Washington wrote himself into the club’s history books with a 26-goal performance in their 2006 title season. In 2007 he was a part of the Reds’ ACL-winning squad, becoming the top scorer in that year’s Club World Cup.
For endurance there are few in the world capable of beating Nobuhisa Yamada, who retired at the end of the 2013 with over 500 appearances for his club. The midfielder and defender spent the entirety of his 20-year career in Urawa, a feat matched only by a few legendary players such as Francesco Totti and Ryan Giggs.
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