The Sun Kings have emerged over local rivals JEF United to become Chiba Prefecture's most successful club, with success on the national and continental level
At first based in the Tokyo suburb of Kodaira (now a bastion of support for FC Tokyo and the home of their training ground), Reysol’s re-location to Chiba in 1978 created a rivalry with JEF United Ichihara, who were based on the other side of the prefecture near Chiba City. Even when the two clubs frequently competed in different divisions, the pre-season Chiba Gin Cup allowed supporters to enjoy a true derby at least once a year.
Reysol’s first title in the J.League came under Akira Nishino, who took over in 1998 after coaching Japan in the 1996 Olympics. Under their former player, the ‘Sun Kings’ pulled off an improbable upset over powerhouse Kashima Antlers, coached by none other than Brazilian legend Zico, in the 1999 Yamazaki Nabisco Cup.
The penalty kick triumph was a watershed moment for Reysol, but it would be more than a decade until they raised another trophy, after several stumbles. In 2010 it was manager Nelsinho Baptista who led the club out from J2, using a combination of young Japanese players and wily Brazilians. A year later they would unexpectedly capture the J1 title over the likes of defending champions Nagoya Grampus and perennial challengers Gamba Osaka, becoming the first Japanese club to do so in the year following promotion.
That December they would participate in the Club World Cup as host representatives, beating Auckland City and Monterrey before losing in the semi-finals to South American champions Santos. The 3-1 result was hardly representative of the fight that Hiroki Sakai and company took to a club that boasted young phenom Neymar.
A year later, Reysol would defeat Gamba Osaka to win the 2012 Emperor’s Cup, earning revenge for their defeat in the same final just four years earlier. Their success heralded a new renaissance at the club, with a renovated stadium regularly drawing sell-out crowds. 2013 saw Reysol become the first Japanese club since Nagoya Grampus in 2009 to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League, in addition to capturing the Nabisco Cup.
Their fanatical following, combined with successful results in the last two ACL tournaments, has made the small club a key component of Japan’s football scene.
Bulgaria international and former Barcelona star Hristo Stoichkov spent a season and a half at the club, scoring 13 goals in 28 appearances.
Midfielder Nozomu Kato would become the club’s first domestic legend, playing in Kashiwa for 13 seasons. Kato was known for his accurate technique with either foot and was an important figure in the club’s promotion to the J.League.
Kato’s partner at midfield, Tomokazu Myojin, played at Kashiwa Stadium for a decade while also representing Japan in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2002 World Cup.
“Korean Libero” Hong Myung-Bo spent three seasons with Reysol, at one point serving as team captain.
More recently, right back Hiroki Sakai distinguished himself against South American champions Santos in the 2011 Club World Cup semi-final, eventually earning a transfer to Bundesliga side Hannover and regular call-ups to the national team.
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