J-League Club Profile: Nagoya Grampus

The former sporting division of Toyota turned a new leaf in the mid-90s, helping to form the J-League and finding success through a Serbian footballing legend.


One of the original J.League founding members, Nagoya Grampus are the modern incarnation of the Toyota football club, the famous automotive company that sported a team back in 1939.

Few teams in Japan have tied their name to one single individual, but for Grampus that player is Dragan ‘Pixy’ Stojkovic, who joined the team in 1994 under future Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The Yugoslavian/Serbian legend was named league MVP in 1995 and let the club to two Emperor’s Cups in 1995 and 1999.

Despite often being labeled as a “big club” and boasting a brand new stadium, Grampus failed to win any title after Stojkovic’s retirement in 2001 and frequently experienced issues with players leaving the club discontentedly.

Though they have never been relegated, Grampus for most of the first decade of the 21st century were in the doldrums, until Stojkovic made a triumphant return in 2008 as a manager. Pixy brought Grampus their first J.League championship in 2010, a victory followed by a Xerox Supercup title the following spring.

The charismatic presence of the Serbian,who left Grampus at the end of 2013, can be crystallized in a 2009 episode against Yokohama F. Marinos. Following a decision to halt play that the manager disagreed with, the cleared ball flew toward the Grampus bench. Stojkovic, wearing business shoes, smoothly kicked it back with a volley. The shot flew over the pitch and sailed into the Marinos goal, resulting in approval from the crowd and a red card from the referee - just like his playing days!

Top Players
England legend Gary Lineker joined Grampus in their first J.League season, but would retire after two injury-plagued years having made just 18 appearances. Despite failing to meet expectations, Lineker did claim what was at the time the league’s highest salary at just under $3 million per year.
Since 1999 the Grampus goal has been defended by Seigo Narazaki, who at 37 is one of the J1’s oldest active players. The 2010 league MVP also earned 77 caps for the national team between 1998 and 2010.

Unlike many clubs, Grampus has continued to invest heavily in European players, including Norway international Frode Johnsen. The 1.88-meter striker opened his time at Grampus with a double at JEF Chiba in July 2006, and in 2008 he helped steer the club to their first AFC Champions League appearance.

The club’s most well-known alumnus may be Keisuke Honda, who debuted for Grampus in a J.League Cup match while still a high school student. He played in Nagoya from 2005 to 2007 before sealing a move to Dutch side VVV Venlo.


Grampus call Toyota Stadium home, and a fine home it is despite its location over an hour from Nagoya proper. The 45,000-seater football-specific stadium features an accordion-shaped retractable roof.

Though it opened in 2001, the stadium was not used for the 2002 World Cup. It has since hosted several Samurai Blue matches as well as served as a venue for the FIFA Club World Cup. Mizuho Athletic Stadium, a traditional Japanese multi-purpose venue, holds 27,000 and serves as the club’s part-time home.

Colors and Uniform

While red with yellow accents have been Grampus’ main colors since 1993, recent uniform designs have included orange as well.

The team’s 1990s uniforms were unique in featuring the club name on the chest rather than their main sponsor, Toyota. The carmaker took over the chest sponsorship beginning in 2001.


Like many other Japanese clubs, Grampus have a family of mascots: Grampus-kun, Grampaco-chan, Grampus-kun Jr, and Grara are modeled after orcas, the team’s namesake.