Kickoff Conference promotes J-League's pan-Asian focus

The media event held in downtown Tokyo gave the league a chance to promote its recent partnerships with Southeast Asian leagues and reconfirm its commitment to Asian football
J-League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi touted the J-League's progress in the 20 years since its formation at the league's annual Kickoff Conference in down-town Tokyo on Friday, giving special attention to the connections formed between the league and its Southeast Asian counterparts.

Managers, players, and representatives from all 40 J1 and J2 clubs were present at the media gathering, held one day before the Japanese Super Cup between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kashiwa Reysol was scheduled to take place.

"The J-League has accomplished rapid growth in these last 20 years, but we cannot stop that progress," Ohigashi said in his opening address to a ballroom packed with journalists and sponsor representatives. "For example, Gamba Osaka and [J-League aspirants AC Nagano Parceiro] have begun planning for football-specific stadiums that are expected to be completed in 2015. The rebuilding of the main stand at Kawasaki's Todoroki Stadium has already begun, while Iwata's Yamaha Stadium and Tokushima's Pocari Sweat Stadium are also undergoing renovations.

"We are continuing in our quest to provide attendees with attractive, safe, and comfortable venues."

Elected to his position in 2010, Ohigashi has overseen the league's expansion into Southeast Asia with new broadcasting agreements and partnerships with local leagues.

"Last year the J-League made pacts with professional leagues in Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar," he elaborated. "Through our mutual prosperity, we aim to improve the reputation of Asian football around the world.

"It is very possible that in the near future we will see players from ASEAN countries playing in the J-League."

The chairman also reaffirmed the J-League's commitment to the Asian Champions League, last won by a Japanese club in 2008 when Gamba Osaka beat Adelaide United.

"In the last 20 years Japan has achieved consecutive World Cup and Olympic appearances, but we are are constantly seeking new goals to accomplish," Ohigashi continued. "For the first time in four years we are rolling out a support program for our ACL clubs and providing them with both financial and human resources.

"Our goal is to recapture the ACL and win the Fifa Club World Cup."