Avispa Fukuoka’s Return to J1! The forerunner of Avispa Fukuoka, the city’s beloved soccer team, was the Fujieda Blux, a club from Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture. In 1993, the Fukuoka Junior Chamber and the Prefectural Soccer Association joined forces in an effort to attract a team to Fukuoka City through a petition drive. They were able to get about 500,000 signatures in just three months, and in 1994 the Fujieda team decided to move to Fukuoka City.
The following year, the team was promoted to the J.League and they changed their name to Avispa, or “wasp” in Spanish. Regrettably, after 13 years of play in Fukuoka City, they were relegated to the J2 league. Last year, however, Avispa stepped back into the spotlight when they landed manager Pierre Littbarski, a member of the German team that won the FIFA World Cup in 1990. Nicknamed Litti, the manager declared, “I came to Fukuoka for one reason only—to get back to J1.”
Local people and corporations are united in their support of Avispa Fukuoka. The team and the city work together to conduct community-based activities, including parent-child soccer instruction and ticket distribution schemes. The team has been using a sound-emitting soccer ball in matches, enabling the visually impaired to enjoy the game. Also, the football center located next to Avispa headquarters in Gannosu, Higashi Ward, has been holding soccer classes for preschoolers and children in primary school. Perhaps they’ll turn out players who one day will join the Avispa team or represent Japan in international matches.
We can look forward to cheering on the team after the season starts on March 16 as they battle their way through hard-fought matches in their climb back to the J1 division. The matches at their Hakata home ground will be played at Levesuta, the nickname of the Level Five Stadium, known as the Mori Stadium before the Level Five game company inked a three-year deal for naming rights. Levesuta will host league matches on the 12th, 20th, and 29th of April, so come out and cheer on the team!