J-League sets Asian standard, says Muscat


Yokohama F Marinos coach Kevin Muscat is convinced Japan’s J-League is the strongest domestic club competition in Asia.

But he says the standard of football needs to continue to improve this year to maintain its status.

Muscat led Marinos to the league title last year to build on the success he enjoyed as a coach in Australia’s A-League and as a player for the Socceroos and clubs in his homeland, England and Scotland.

It was the club’s fifth title since the the J-League kicked off in 1993 and more success will be expected when the 30th anniversary season kicks off on Friday.

“For football in Japan over this 30-year period the J-League has established the most competitive and best league in Asia,” Muscat said.

“It’s very difficult to compare it to other leagues in Asia because of the superiority of the J-League.

“The mistake would be to look back over the last 30 years. To improve it’s about looking forward, and looking and learning from superior competitions outside of Asia.”

Marinos open the campaign on Friday against Kawasaki Frontale, who finished two points behind Muscat’s side in second place last season.

The Australian’s hopes of overseeing back-to-back Marinos titles for the first time since 2004 have been hampered by departures of key players.

Defensive midfielder Tomoki Iwata, the J-League’s Most Valuable Player last season, has left to join Muscat’s predecessor as Marinos coach, Ange Postecoglou, at Celtic in Scotland.

Forward Teruhito Nakagawa, the league’s best player when Marinos won the title in 2019, has left for J-League rivals FC Tokyo while starting goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka joined Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps last week.

“We have to accept that we’ve had a challenging off-season,” Muscat said.

“Our preparation hasn’t been good so far. But I think the biggest thing for us is that our mentality towards our identity will remain.

“Of course the growth can come from many, many different areas.

“We need to get growth from the players now who are in their second or third years in our environment, and also to get growth from the new players we have managed to bring into the team.”

The new season launches in the wake of Japan’s run to the last 16 at the World Cup in Qatar, which included stunning wins over former champions Germany and Spain.

“The fact that we’re playing the first game is a pleasure,” Muscat said.

“It’s also a good opportunity for us, post the World Cup, to continue to build momentum for the game here in Japan.

“Myself personally, and Marinos the football club, we feel a responsibility to entertain and to play a good brand of football that helps promote football in Japan.”


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