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japan futsal assess day4 3x2Osaka: The future and survival of the F-League is solely dependent on the success of the Japan Futsal national team, or to be more specific, it could be in the hands of a yet-to-be-selected "new" member of the squad.

And "The People's Champions"- Japan football legend Kazuyoshi Miura - could yet prove to be the most significant and influential figure in this aspect.

At least, this is what Japanese futsal senior officials, Masahiro Fujita and Masato Watanabe, think.     

"King Kazu" was selected in the 16-man provisional squad by Spanish Head Coach Miguel Rodrigo to prepare for the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 in Thailand. With only 14 players selected for the final squad, all eyes will be on the fate of the 45-year-old, who is still actively playing in J2 (JFA second tier league after J-League) for Yokohama FC.

Japan Futsal Federation (JFF) Board Member Fujita, who is also the General Manager of Shriker Osaka, sees Miura as the saviour of F-League.

"Since the legendary Kazu's inclusion as one of the probables for the Japan Futsal World Cup team, we have received numerous calls from the football fans to watch our games,” he said. “This shows how big the star effect is. What's more he is the biggest name, household name of Japan football, and one of Asian football icons.

"The future of F-League depends on how good the national team is playing and their result internationally, if I am being honest. It is a fact that when the national team plays well, it helps to generate the fans’ interest. Match attendance is improving, merchandises are selling like hot cakes and the F-League popularity is rising.

"So, if you ask me how important Kazu is to this game, for me, he could well turn out to be the F-League’s saviour, it’s as simple as that."

Although Fujita is desperate for Shriker Osaka to wreck the crown from the nose of the all-conquering Nagoya Oceans, who won the Championship in five consecutive years since the F-League was established in 2007, he will be more delighted to see the sustainability and continuity of the F-League.

"I'll be lying if I say I don't want my team to emerge champions in the F-League,” he explained. “But one should not be short-sighted and selfish. I choose to see the big picture. If the league can't be sustained, any talk is just purely nonsense. I believe our fellow clubs share the same view with me.

"Yes my club is financially strong and well managed, but we can't just fool ourselves. We need a healthy F-League with all clubs in equal strength, financially stable and properly managed. Most importantly, no club leaves. Well, Japan’s futsal development looks good, but in reality, the F-League is not a matured product yet. We still have a long way to go. However, if we can all put in our best effort, I am sure that we can be one day on par with the J-League. "

Watanabe, another JFF Board Member, as well as member of the JFA Futsal Committee, echoed Fujita's view.

"The F-League was the baby of former JFA Presidents, Captain Saburo Kawabuchi and Junji Ogura,” he said. “For sure, we need to keep it growing and do our utmost best to expand it. However, financial constraint has slowed down the progress of the F-League.

"To make the F-League stronger, we need more funds and sponsors. To achieve this, we need the national team to be very competitive in the international scene, for example the year-end World Cup. Look at the Nadeshiko. They have totally changed the face of women's football in Japan after their marvelous feat of winning the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011. This is the impact that we are looking for.

"You don't need a rocket scientist to tell you how massive Kazu's effect is. If 'the people's hero' makes the cut to the final 14 eventually, it could mean a lot to Japanese and world futsal."  

AFC Futsal Director, Ali Targholizade summed up perfectly:

"It is the same with any sport. If the national team is doing well, it will give the sport a major boost, directly or indirectly. Futsal is just the same. If the Japan futsal national team does well, of course they will attract the public attention and it can only be good for the development of the game.

"I fully understand JFF's concern but I have utmost confidence in them. I strongly believe that the F-League will sustain and become one of the best Futsal Leagues in the world, judging by the continuous and enormous effort made by the JFA, JFF and all stakeholders involved."

An AFC MA and Club Futsal Development Assessment Visit delegation led by Targholizadeh and JFA Competitions Department representative Tetsuro Fukuda visited one of the top teams in the F-League, Shriker Osaka.

The team then proceeded to the J-Green Sakai National Training Centre to study their facilities and training programmes.

The visitors made their last stop at the Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium to watch the top-of-the-table F-League clash between Shriker Osaka and Nagoya Oceans. Shriker and Oceans are currently placed second and first respectively in the table. The match ended with a 3-2 win for Oceans.

The four-day visit aimed to review current AFC Futsal MAs’ activities and procedures, to study the development of futsal in Asia, to exchange futsal experiences among MAs and synchronise top-level MAs’ futsal activities, among others.

Japan is the first member association to have received the assessment visit.