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© J.LEAGUE PHOTOS

J-League Club Profile: Omiya Ardija

© J.LEAGUE PHOTOS

J.LEAGUE PHOTOS

After nearly a decade of survival as a small club in J1, the Squirrels are looking to build on their loyal following with a core of young players.


History
Although Omiya Ardija might be seen as Saitama prefecture’s second club in the shadow of Urawa Reds, the “Squirrels” have developed a solid following and in recent years often challenged their more famous neighbors.

Founded by NTT Communications in 1969, Ardija was not prepared to join the J.League in 1993 and instead chose to compete in the Japan Football League. In 1999 they were among the J2’s ten founding clubs, playing there until achieving promotion in 2004.

The Saitama Derby began in earnest in 2000, when Ardija faced Urawa Reds in a league match for the first time. That season’s J2 was a double home-and-away format, meaning that the two sides met four times. Though Ardija fell 0-6 in one of these games, they would also pull off a historical 1-0 upset that is still remembered with pride today.

Since 2005, the club has been a permanent member of J1. Though Ardija have yet to win a title or seriously contend for a Cup, they have throughout the years shown a remarkable resiliency, never dropping below 15th place even when relegation looked all but certain.

Although it appeared as though supporters would be rewarded for their patience after the club finished the first half of the 2013 season in first place, a perfect storm of injuries, coaching changes, and lost confidence resulted in two eight-game losing streaks and an eventual 14th-place finish.


Top Players
Ardija was the first club called home by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who has since gone on to become the starter for Japan’s national team.

Panama international Jorge Valdes spent two seasons at Ardija, scoring 34 goals in 50 appearances while they competed in the J2.

Brazilian forward Rafael Marques was a key player behind many of Ardija’s relegation-avoiding finishes, playing at the club from 2009 to 2012 before returning to Brazil and joining Botafogo.

Veteran Socceroo defender Lucas Neill made his J-League debut with Ardija in August 2013, earning nine appearances for the team before departing at the end of the season.

Stadium


NACK 5 Stadium is a pleasant 20-minute walk from the centrally-accessible Omiya Station, during which fans will pass through shopping streets, scenic boulevards, and template gates. The stadium itself was built in 1960 and hosted several matches of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The current stadium, which was expanded in 2007 to meet J-League standards, fits over 15,000 supporters and is often sold out.

Colors and Uniform

Ardija are one of three clubs, including Shimizu S-Pulse and Albirex Niigata, to use orange as their base color. Dark blue, their second color, is mostly used for accents on their uniform.

Mascot

Ardi and Miya, two squirrels, joined the club in 1999 and 2008 respectively. Miya was voted ‘Best Female Mascot’ by J-League fans in 2012.

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