Football in Kobe【英語版】
Over 800 years ago, long before the port opened to the Western world during the Meiji Era, Kobe was a big trade port for the Sung and Ming dynasties of old China. After the port opened to Western trade in the Meiji Era, Kobe progressed alongside Yokohama as a foreign settlements took hold in both cities.
European and other foreign cultures took hold in Kobe, helping to make if a cosmopolitan city.
The main part of the foreign settlement was located near the port an area reaching from today's Kobe municipal office to portside.
With the establishment of the Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club (KR&AC) in 1870, sports facilities, such as a tennis court and a football stadium were set up.
In 1888, the first interport football match was held in Japan.
It was between the KR&AC and the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club (YC&AC).
In March of the previous year, 1887, Kobe Minato Shimbun (Kobe Port Newspaper) reported, "a kemari (football) event was held in the Kobe Settlement."
It approved of football being played in public at that time.
This set up the scenario in which "Kobe's origin of football" came about.
Being suitable for this scenario Kobe was considered an advanced football district from the Taisho Era to pre-World War II times in the Showa Era.
Teams representing Kobe became champions 16 times and runners-up 7 times in the first through 22nd Japan Football Tournament (the former High School Football Tournament), which was started in 1918.
After the ninth tournament, a system was established in which teams had to play in regional preliminary rounds before making it to the final.
Even in that system, Kobe teams got into the finals 10 times in 14 tournaments.
Kobe's Mikage Shihan Institute (Teacher's School) and Kobe Icchu (Kobe First Junior-High) won four championships each and Kobe Icchu (which is now Kobe High School) and Kobe Sanchu (Kobe 3rd Junior-High) both were runners-up once.
Not only did Kobe Icchu's players become noted for their winning ability, but they became famous for their football skills -- they were excellent short passers and were able to get the ball behind their opponent's defensive line with ease.
From 1930, this "short-pass strategy" became the basic idea for Japan's national team whenever it played against foreign teams, whose players usually displayed splendid individual football techniques.
It was under these circumstance that top level Japanese players began taking to the pitch.
In the 1st Far East Tournament, which was played in 1930, Kobe's players showed a high level of excellence.
They also did well at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
At the first Asia Cup in 1951, Kobe players represented 11 out of 16 players who were on Japan's national team.
While the older players were raising the level of football in Japan, the younger generations were getting accustomed to kicking the ball at a primary school attached to the Teacher's school.
And junior high school students were taught how to play under the old educational system.
However, football had to take a back seat during World War II and the new education system that was set up in the post-war days.
Setting Up a Kobe FC Inc. and a Private Stadium In 1965, the year after the Tokyo Olympics, graduates of Kobe Icchu and Mikage Shihan, under the supervision of Dr. Masanobu Kato, launched a football school for boys and girls with the hope that the sport would be revised and the level of younger generations be improved.
The soccer school moved into the boy's football club, which resulted in the further development of Japanese football.
Around the same time, the Japanese Football League came into being.
In 1970, a volunteer group, including Dr. Kato, reorganized their "Hyogo Friendly Football" club into the "Kobe Football Club Corporation" (Kobe FC), long before the Japan Football Association had become a "foundation".
They thought it was necessary for professional instructors and club managers to coach young players who enjoy playing in a club regardless of their age.
Along with incorporating Kobe FC, the club propelled "a registration of players by age" system.
The idea of playing a sport that was not divided into high-school, university and adult categories but divided by ages was practiced around the world, but Japanese in those days felt such a system was absurd.
However, the Japan Football Association later introduced such a system.
With this history in the background, it was quite natural for Kobe to get a J.League team and work hard to hold the World Cup 2002 games.
And Kobe's stadium, which will be opened in October this year, is football-only stadium without athletic tracks.
It was also natural for Kobe citizens, who once eagerly collected 30,000 signatures on a petition to build the "Misaki Football Stadium."
The new stadium is located on the site of the former Misaki Football Stadium. Now, the next generation of such a volunteer group collecting signatures has an eye on equipping all primary schools in Kobe with turf groundswith the hope that their community will become known as "Athlete Town Kobe."
（2001年３月10日 YC&AC対KR&AC インターポートマッチ・試合プログラム「Legend Of Football 〜世紀を越えて蘇る日本サッカーのルーツ〜」）