The Tohoku representatives have formed a close bond with their community in the wake of the March 2011 disasters, inspiring fans worldwide in the process.
They were finally promoted to the J.League in 1999, when they joined the newly-founded second division of J2. But after a one-year dalliance in the top flight in 2002, Vegalta became “permanent residents” of the J2 until 2009, when they finally earned a promotion.
Under the direction of manager Makoto Teguraori and led on the pitch by Japanese-born Korean Ryang Yong-gi, Vegalta have since become one of the new forces of the J.League, with a remarkable fourth-place finish in a 2011 season marked by disaster.
The club’s home ground of Yurtec Stadium was damaged heavily by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. Vegalta became a catalyst for hope in the months following the disaster, and the J.League community rallied around them in support.
Sendai’s supporters gained popularity around the country because of their “rock’n’roll-style” chants, and they travelled in great numbers as a result of having to play so many games away while Yurtec Stadium underwent repairs and Miyagi Stadium saw use as an emergency shelter.
After falling short of a top-three finish in 2011, Vegalta came back in 2012 stronger than ever and achieved a club-best second place, earning a spot in the 2013 AFC Champions League. Despite being eliminated in the group stage, it was a great accomplishment for a club that just a few season earlier was playing in the second division.
After Teguramori’s departure at the end of 2013 in order to take over Japan’s Olympic team, Vegalta welcomed former Australia coach Graham Arnold, who managed the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners in their 2012-13 championship run.
Before leaving for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Hisato Sato demonstrated his potential at Vegalta with 20 goals in their 2004 J2 season. In 2003 he played alongside Hajime Moriyasu, who would later become his manager at Sanfrecce.
Though he played briefly for Vegalta in the 2003 season, Shigeyoshi Mochizuki is well-loved by Japanese fans for scoring the winning goal in the 2000 Asian Cup Final against Saudi Arabia.
For two seasons, Vegalta (then Brummell) claimed Koln and West Germany legend Pierre Littbarski in their squad. The winger, who is fluent in Japanese, returned to Japan in 2006 to coach Avispa Fukuoka.
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