Jubilo won their first of three J.League championships in 1997, following up with wins in 1999 and 2002. They also claimed the 1998 Nabisco Cup and 2003 Emperor’s Cup as well as the 1998-99 Asian Club Championship, the predecessor to the modern AFC Champions League.
In the last ten years, however, much like prefectural rivals Shimizu S-Pulse, Jubilo have fallen from grace. Though they have yet to be relegated, their lone title in the last decade has been the 2010 Nabisco Cup.
While they were perilously close to the drop in 2008, Jubilo survived after a two-stage playoff against promotion contenders Vegalta Sendai. With the challengers needing just one more goal to win the series, the frantic final minute of the second leg saw all 11 Jubilo players fend off several shots to preserve their place in the top flight.
In the 2000s the club has been best represented by Ryoichi Maeda, whose ‘Death Goal’ has become the stuff of legend. From 2007 to 2012, the first team to surrender a goal to Maeda was always relegated to the second division.
Despite the lack of recent success, Jubilo Iwata remain one of the top clubs in the history of J.League, and along with Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F. Marinos are one of Japanese professional football’s pillars.
The two played alongside legendary Brazil international Dunga between 1995 and 1998. The future Selecao coach played 26 games in their league-winning 1997 squad, but left the club due to the high exchange rate forcing a reduction in salary.
Central midfielder Hiroshi Nanami spent 12 seasons with the club while also becoming a key part of Japan’s national team and appearing in the 1998 World Cup. He was one of Japan’s earliest players in Serie A after playing for Venezia in the the 1999-2000 season.
Nanami was not the only Jubilo alum to travel overseas. 2002 league MVP and top scorer Naohiro Takahara made the voyage to Germany after five years of service in Iwata, spending several seasons at Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt before returning to the J.League.
However, the club’s most well-known player may very well be Masashi ‘Gon’ Nakayama, who remained a fixture at Jubilo from the opening game of the 1994 season until his departure in 2009. In 1998 he set a Guinness World Record with four consecutive hat-tricks, just two months before becoming the first Japanese player to score in the World Cup.
Current South Korea NT leader Lee Keun-Ho made his J.League debut in Iwata, playing there for a season and a half before being sold to Gamba Osaka in the summer of 2009.
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