We are in a mess.
The size of the mess we are in has meant that we have become a news story across all of Japan, and are even attracting some international interest.
From this mess comes a phrase popular in England: ‘Triumph comes from the shadow of adversity’.
Rather than looking at out current situation as one of despair let’s look at it as one from which we can rebuild the club as it should have been in the first place.
We have a city, a fan-base, and a manager who can rebuild this club into something which would never be possible if we went through 20 years of mediocrity.
Here are my top 5 points to make Avispa Fukuoka a great club which the whole city can be proud of:
1) Back the current manager.
This season has been a disaster. Last season was too, and the season before that.
If we step back and try to assess what have been the good points what are they?
There are none from last year or the year before.
This year we have seen a style of play be brought into the club which given time all players, at all age ranges of the club will understand.
We have seen a connection with the fan-base and encouragement to get through this obstacle together, fighting as a single unit.
There are now two 19 year old players in the first team; 1 who is in the Japan U-19 team, 1 who is our best player. Both players will only get better, both would not have got more than 5 substitute appearances if we didn’t have a brave, manager willing to take risks.
I have come across few managers who have had a disappointing season but are still absolutely loved by the fans. While ‘only’ being in J2 Pusnik has achieved something which managers in top leagues across Europe haven’t.
2) Look to youth.
Clubs all across the world are in financial trouble.
Every football fan in Japan has heard of Manchester United, but even they have a policy of only signing players who are under 24 and have a chance of learning the system and getting better.
The only players who they would sign above that age are players who will improve the team immediately and help with the progress of the younger players around them.
In contrast to this Avispa has a policy of signing at least 2 players each season who are over 32, are on huge salaries, and usually end up playing less than 10 games a season.
Look back through our recent history: Makoto Tanaka, Norihisa Shimizu, Masahiro Koga, all of these players have come to Fukuoka to get one last pay day before they retire.
You could get the absolute best young players in the country for 20% of what Makoto Tanaka earned in 1 season.
3) Kyushu Pride.
This idea is a bit unorthodox.
Unless we get a huge sponsor we are never going to be a top J1 club. What we can be is a club which are happy to fight against the top clubs and celebrate sometimes beating them with a different set of rules.
This is what is happening in a club like Athletic Bilbao, or has previously happened at Glasgow Celtic. They fight with passionate support, but know that they won’t beat Barcelona and Real Madrid, they do not have the money for that. What they do have is that they do not select any players who are not born within distance of the club.
Avispa can do this. Let’s set up a club which only takes players from Kyushu! It would be amazing, and the fans would be patient enough to support it.
It might take us 3 more years to get promotion, but it would make the club famous internationally. If done properly it would also make an identity for the entire city and maybe even get us the sponosrs, support and fan-base to compete in J1.
Imagine a team with Kyushu alumni like Endo, Okubo, Kiyotake, Osako… if you could get those players and keep them as a fighting unit it would be the best team in SE Asia.
4) Sister Club.
This is another ‘outside the box’ idea.
Wenger has recently siad that Japan is the place to go shopping (rather than France), but it is too difficult to get visas.
If you could make a link to a top European club and have young players who might move to Europe but need more National caps before they get a work visa it can help both clubs.
Japan is also known as a very technical league which might be a very good finishing school for players from Europe, especially those from England who are seen as physically strong but lacking in technique.
Could it be possible to make a sister club program where top Japanese players could go to Europe after being in Japan long enough to get National team call-up, and young European players could come across to get technical training while also playing matches in front of 8000 fans?
5) New Stadium.
Level-5 is a great stadium. I would not go to watch the football if we had to play every week in a stadium which had an athletics track, but it could still be better.
Within the next 10 years Japan will host the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic games. Fukuoka absolutely has to be part of that.
There is the chance to make a stadium which will be paid for by those events, and then leave a legacy of a stadium 10 minutes walk from an international airport which can be used for the next 50 years.
As nice as Level-5 is now it cannot be used or either of those events. I went to a rugby international and it took 15 minutes to get a beer. That was against UAE and I was at the front of the queue.
In 3 weeks Paul McCartney will be playing at the Yahoo dome. That is what Avispa should be looking at and aspiring to.