In the historical 2002 season, Trinita managed to win the J2 championship and were finally promoted to J1. Though they struggled to remain in the top flight, they made slow but steady gains, rising from 14th to 11th in their first three seasons.
The club’s golden year was 2008, when they earned a fourth-place finish with the league’s stingiest defence and captured their first title by defeating Shimizu S-Pulse 2-0 in the Nabisco Cup Final.
They could not repeat their success in 2009, however, as financial problems caused by a lack of sponsorship forced budget cuts that resulted in relegation. The Oita Bank Dome, a beautiful structure built on the hills above Oita City for the 2002 World Cup, once hosted as many as 22,000 for each home game; by 2011, average attendance fell below 9,000 per match.
Against all odds, the club managed a sixth-place finish in the 2012 J2 season and a chance to earn promotion through the newly-installed playoffs. As a result of their low seeding, Trinita needed to win both of their matches in order to progress. They achieved this with an astounding 4-0 triumph at Kyoto Sanga and a well-fought - though perhaps slightly lucky - 1-0 victory over JEF United Chiba at the National Stadium in Tokyo.
2000 Brazilian League top scorer Magno Alves joined Trinita in 2004, staying for two seasons. In 2006 he would become the top scorer in both the J.League and AFC Champions League.
Mu Kanazaki, a midfielder who played for Trinita from 2007 to 2009, played a handful of games for Japan and currently plays in the Portuguese Segunda Liga for Portimonense SC.
Hiroshi Kiyotake, who was Kanazaki’s team-mate for two years, has since found success in Germany’s Nurnberg and is now a regular member of Japan’s national team.
Former goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, a product of Trinita’s youth system who was their starter from 2005 to 2009, helped to win the club’s first trophy in 2008. Now a regular backup on the national team, he was a deciding factor behind Japan’s deciding 2-1 victory at South Korea in the 2013 East Asian Cup.
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