A new season of Meiji Yasuda J1 League football is upon us!
The best teams in all of Japan will battle for the crown of the country’s top team, not to mention AFC Champions League places, city or prefecture bragging rights and, for an unfortunate few, the right to just stay in the top flight.
Here is one thing you definitely want to keep an eye on:
ASEAN stars across the J.League
The Meiji Yasuda J.League has made lifting the quality of football across the region a priority and the effort has been wildly successful.
Not only have J.League sides partnered with clubs in other countries, gone abroad to play friendlies that lifted support and invested in player development, but they have also signed some of the best players from Southeast Asia to test themselves at the highest level in the region and increase the quality of the J.League itself.
As we enter 2023, there are a slew of Southeast Asian players who could make a huge impact on the pitch in the J.League.
Top of mind is Chanathip Songkrasin, the Thai star who has been playing in the Japanese top flight since 2017. He’s proven himself to be a match-winner, taking him J1 Best XI honors in 2018 while at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, but his focus now is on helping Kawasaki Frontale win the league.
Frontale signed Chanathip prior to last season, seeing him as the type of inventive spark that could help them win another J1 title. Chanathip and Co. fell just short of those aims, finishing second in a title race that went to the final day of the season, but Frontale are back for another run at silverware in 2023 and Chanathip could play a big role in them winning J1’s top trophy.
Chanathip’s Thailand teammate Supachok Sarachat is also in the J.League, playing for Chanathip’s former club in Sapporo. The 24-year-old has star potential and showed it in his Consa debut last season when he picked up an assist moments after coming off the bench.
Supachok spent some time adjusting to life and football in Sapporo after joining last summer, but he still managed three assists in just 93 total minutes. There is no doubting his quality and with Consa aiming for improvement in 2023, they are certainly hoping that Supachok can provide the inventiveness he showed last season on a regular basis.
Nguyen Cong Phuong is a new addition to the J.League, joining Yokohama FC in the winter. The Vietnam star has played in Japan before, suiting up for Mito Hollyhock in J2 seven years ago. He’s since played in the Republic of Korea, Belgium and Vietnam, but he’s now signing up to bring some attacking verve to a Fulie side that is back the top flight and hoping to stay there.
The second division also has some Southeast Asian flair, with Pratama Arhan back for another season in Tokyo Verdy green. The 21-year-old Indonesian starlet signed for Verdy last February and spent most of 2022 getting used to life in Japan, playing just 45 minutes, but his talent is undeniable. There is hope he plays a bigger role this season as Verdy aim for a return to J1, and Arhan’s skill could be part of that rise.
As the J.League grows and improves, so does football all around Southeast Asia, and it’s in stadiums across Japan that you can see some of the best players the region has to offer. From proven stars like Chanathip, to up-and-coming youngsters like Arhan, the J.League is proving a vital platform for Southeast Asian talent and that is set to continue in 2023.
Four more things to watch for in 2023: