V-Varen Nagasaki

V・ファーレン長崎 / V-Varen Nagasaki

  • City: Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyūshū
  • Founded: 2004
  • Ground: Transcosmos Stadium Nagasaki (20,246)
  • Nicknames: VVN
  • Colours: Blue shirt with navy blue and orange trims, navy blue shorts, blue socks with orange trim
  • 2022 League: J2 League
  • Club Website: https://www.v-varen.com/
  • Club Twitter: @v_varenstaff

Honours

  • Best League Finish: 18th in J1 (2018)
  • Best Emperor’s Cup Finish: Semi-Finals (2019)
  • J2 League
    • Runners-Up (2017)
  • Japan Football League
    • Winners (2012)
  • Regional Football League Competition
    • Runners-up (2008)
  • Kyūshū Soccer League
    • Runners-up (2008)

V-Varen Nagasaki / V・ファーレン長崎 is a Japanese football team that currently plays in the J2 League, the second tier in the Japanese football pyramid. They play their home games at the fantastically named Transcosmos Stadium Nagasaki / トランスコスモススタジアム長崎 (also known as the Nagasaki Athletic Stadium) which is based in the smaller city of Isahaya, a neighbouring conurbation of the famous and cosmopolitan southwestern port city of Nagasaki, within the prefecture of the same name, situated on the western coast of Japan’s most southern island of Kyūshū. However, there are plans in place to build a 20,000-capacity football-specific stadium within the city of Nagasaki on the site of the former Saiwaimachi shipbuilding yard with the stadium complex scheduled to be completed in early 2024.

The club has its foundations in a club named Ariake SC, which was founded in 1985. However, the current club’s official foundation year is credited as 2004 when Ariake merged with Kunimi FC that year, with the club adopting the present name in 2005. The unique name takes its origins from the city’s history as being the sole location where Portuguese and Dutch traders interacted with the Shogunate during Japan’s isolationist period. The “V” comes from both the Portuguese word vitória (meaning ‘victory‘) as well as the Dutch word vrede (meaning ‘peace‘), while “Varen” (pronounced “faren”) is the Dutch verb meaning ‘to sail‘ in reference to Nagasaki’s historical port city status and traditional ship-building history.

V-Varen Nagasaki started its history within the regional Kyūshū Soccer League before gaining promotion to the then third-tier Japan Football League in 2008 after finishing in second place in the Regional League promotion series. They had their application for J.League Associate Membership approved in 2009, a requirement for clubs who wish to advance into the J.League structure, but wouldn’t earn promotion into the J.League until 2012 when VVN clinched the JFL title by finishing nine points ahead of their nearest rivals, Nagano Parceiro. Since their ascent into the J.League system, Nagasaki have spent nearly all of their J.League history competing in J2, albeit one season when the club played in the top tier after finishing as runners-up in 2017, just three points behind that year’s J2 League champions Shonan Bellmare. Alas, the club was relegated in their only appearance in J1 in the 2018 season when they finished bottom of the table, but since then, they have continued to be one of the stronger clubs within J2, often challenging for the promotion spots but just failing to obtain promotion. Last season, Nagasaki finished fourth in the 22-team league, but missed out on the top two automatic promotion spots by six points.

To talk about a club that has garnered global attention in recent times for their highly sort-after and superbly-designed football shirts, especially their recent ‘peace shirt’ designs, we spoke to Daniel who runs the excellent Nagasaki Blue & Orange blogsite and Twitter account. It is an unofficial V-Varen Nagasaki fan account that reports on all the news, results, fixtures, and everything else going on at the club in the English language. Should you wish to find out more about Nagasaki Blue & Orange, you can find links to the blog’s website and social media accounts below:

Q. Who would you say is V-Varen Nagasaki’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Takuya Takagi

The manager is a very easy choice: it is Takuya Takagi, who was at V-Varen from 2013 to 2018 and lead the club to its first and so far only promotion to J1 League in 2017, just about eight months after the club nearly went bankrupt. He was born in Nagasaki prefecture and had quite a decent playing career [scoring 27 goals in 44 appearances for the Japanese national team between 1992 and 1997, making him the seventh-highest goalscorer for Samurai Blue in their international history], which ended in 2000, several years before V-Varen was even founded. So, that he, as a football legend of Nagasaki, became the club’s manager meant a lot to everyone and he is still loved by the supporters. The fact that V-Varen got relegated back to J2 right away in 2018 did not change that at all.

Takashi Sawada

As for the best player of all time, I am picking Takashi Sawada, who is still playing for Nagasaki and originally is from Kumamoto, a neighbouring prefecture of Nagasaki, which also belongs to Japan’s most southern main island, Kyushu. He is a forward/winger, who joined the club in 2017 [from Shimizu S-Pulse] and basically has been a starter ever since, which is impressive considering that right now he is playing for his fifth manager at V-Varen and the playing style has changed completely since the days of Takuya Takagi. Earlier this season, Sawada became the player with the most appearances for V-Varen as he overtook Ryota Takasugi, a central defender, who played 198 games for the club from 2014 to 2019. By now, Sawada has made 210 appearances during which he has scored 20 goals and provided 25 assists. What I really like about him is that he always is so unselfish and always tries to make the right play. Maybe statistically, he does not contribute that many goals and assists anymore, but he still is a key player for the team and we feel that each time he misses a game.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?

I’d say that the biggest cult hero of the past, present, and future is always the mascot, Vivi-kun, who is one of the most popular mascots in Japanese football 🙂

Daniel meeting Vivi-kun for the first time.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]

For the past, I’d pick defensive midfielder, Yusuke Maeda, or Mae-chan, as he is generally called. He is a Fukuoka native, so he is also from Kyushu, and joined V-Varen in 2012, when they were still in the semi-professional JFL, and stayed with V-Varen until he retired after the 2018 season, so he was there for two promotions and one relegation. In 192 appearances Mae-chan only scored three goals for Nagasaki, the third of which was perhaps the biggest goal in club history, as it was the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 win against Kamatamare Sanuki on matchday 41 of the 2017 season, which sealed direct promotion to J1. It was a cracking finish and I also loved his celebration because his body language was like “let’s get this done, we are getting promoted today!” This was very early in my days following the club, but what a memory, and it just fits because he was one of the leaders of this team. He actually still works for V-Varen today as a youth coach and is a commentator on DAZN for the first team’s home games. I had the chance to meet him in 2019 and what a guy. So friendly and with the type of smile that just makes you smile as well. Plus, it made me think he should be a model for toothpaste commercials.

Daniel and his wife with Nagasaki legend Yusuke Maeda.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]
Masaya Tomizawa

As for a cult hero in the present squad, I think 29-year-old goalkeeper Masaya Tomizawa is very popular. He has spent his entire career with V-Varen after joining the club in 2016, but it took quite a while for him to get a game, and 60 of his 77 club appearances have come in the past couple of seasons. He is one of the captains now and overall has been reliable, but recently was benched after making two massive mistakes in the same game, which was just tough to watch.

Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at Nagasaki and why?

Edigar Junio

Right now it is still 31-year-old Brazilian forward Edigar Junio, who is also Nagasaki’s top scorer this season with 11 goals. I keep on comparing him to Henrik Larsson, not that I would ever claim that he is at the same level, but his movement and finishing just reminds me of Henrik. He joined V-Varen from Yokohama F. Marinos (Ange Postecoglou’s former team) two years ago and has scored a whole bunch of goals that made me think that he is the only striker in J2, who could score such goals. I guess he has not scored as many goals as some people may have expected from him in J2 (31 in 79 games), but there are several reasons for this including injuries and the fact that Nagasaki have just played very conservatively for much of the past couple of seasons.

Clayson

I guess I should also mention Clayson, a 27-year-old Brazilian offensive midfielder, who only arrived a couple months ago [from Saudi Arabian side Al-Faisaly], so it is a bit too early to call him our best player. However, I can imagine that if you ask me the same question a year from now, he will be the clear number one in that category because he is just a pleasure to watch and already has scored two goals and added two assists in his first seven appearances for V-Varen. He also was a key player for Corinthians in 2017 when they won the Brazilian Série A while managed by Fábio Carille, who became V-Varen manager in July.

Q. Are there any players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

Yusei Egawa

Apart from Clayson, who I am just excited to see more of in the future, Nagasaki have started to produce their first academy players in recent seasons and they are all Nagasaki natives, which is just great to see. My favourite one is Yusei Egawa, a 22-year-old defender, who is one of the captains by now and, although a bit short at 175cm, is a modern centre-back, who can do about anything and is left-footed. The most promising academy product is 18-year-old midfielder Taisei Abe, who made his first-team debut last year, just before his 17th birthday. He is also the only V-Varen academy player, who has been called up to join the training camps of one of Japan’s youth national teams. Let’s see what the future holds for him!

Hijiri Kato

And finally: left-back Hijiri Kato. He has just turned 21 and, overall, is also quite close to being the best player on the squad in my opinion. He is solid defensively and has a left foot made of gold, I really like to watch him play. And he was part of Japan’s U-23 team that finished third at the 2022 AFC U-23 Championship.

Q. Who would you regard as V-Varen Nagasaki’s biggest or historical rivals?

This is a tough one because at V-Varen (and I’d say this applies to many other Japanese teams as well), supporters groups generally have friendly relationships with each other and I see it quite often that ultra groups meet after games and have dinner together. So, I’d say compared to Europe, South America, and plenty of other places, where supporters play a big role in making rivalries intense, in Japan, it mostly stays on the pitch and supporters cheer their own team for 90 minutes. When we talk about rivalries on the pitch, two come to my mind: Ventforet Kofu is the first, even though there have only been nine games between the two clubs, but they are always very competitive and intense.

The second one is Fagiano Okayama because they are one of the teams V-Varen have played against very often considering their short history of 19 times. The first match between the two happened in 2006 when both clubs were trying to get promoted to the JFL and met in the playoffs of the regional championship, where Okayama won 3-1. The next time the two met was in 2013, with both clubs in the J2 League and apart from the one season Nagasaki spent in J1, they have been facing each other every season since then. It took V-Varen until 2017 to finally be able to beat Fagiano and the first away win against them only happened two years ago. So they really have been very tough to beat for Nagasaki. The current record against them is 4 wins for V-Varen, 8 wins for Fagiano, and 7 draws. On the positive side, Nagasaki’s highest-ever win in the J.League came against Okayama, a 5-0 at home in 2020.

Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this season has gone?

Fábio Carille

The club has been working hard to make things happen on and off the pitch since the takeover in 2017. V-Varen have been competing for direct promotion or the playoffs for three seasons in a row and have had some very decent squads. The one thing I have not been too happy with is the decision-making when it comes to managers. In 2020, the club finished third with 80 points, the same as in the 2017 promotion season, four points behind first and second place, and fifteen in front of fourth place. It was a fantastic season with great team performances, but the club decided to sack manager Makoto Teguramori because V-Varen did not achieve promotion. I am still a bit haunted by this, and Tegu-san’s successor only lasted 11 games into the following season. The following guy lead the team back into the promotion race, but then also had a poor start this season and was sacked in June. The current manager is Fábio Carille, who I already mentioned earlier, and I think he was a really good signing as V-Varen went on an eleven-game unbeaten run at the beginning of his tenure. However, then they lost two in a row and then drama really hit the club as there were countless Covid infections among players and staff, so two games had to be rescheduled and the players couldn’t practice together for a while. After that break, V-Varen have had to play 7 games in 21 days and the results have been poor overall. As I am writing this, we have four games to go and are four points behind the playoffs, but even if we reach the playoffs, the chance to make it to J1 is very small because these playoffs are a rather unfair competition (home game for higher seeded team; draw is enough for the higher seeded team to through; playoff final against J1’s 16th placed team, who will have a home game and also only need a draw to stay in J1).

V-Varen Nagasaki home support.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]

So, it has been a rather turbulent season, but as said, overall I have a good feeling about Fábio Carille and am looking forward to seeing what he can do with a full preseason and some more of his preferred types of players.

Q. Looking at Nagasaki’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?

One I already mentioned was the promotion to J1, which was sealed on November 11 of 2017, in a 3-1 home win against Sanuki on matchday 41. It was witnessed by a sell-out crowd of 20k at the Transcosmos Stadium and I think it is by far the biggest moment in the club’s history. But I would also like to give an honourary mention to another game: the Emperor’s Cup (Japan’s equivalent of the FA Cup) quarterfinal of 2019, in which V-Varen won 2-1 at home against Ventforet Kofu. It is the club’s biggest achievement in a cup competition to date and it has a special place in my heart because it was my first V-Varen home game. There were only about 3.000 people in the stadium that night and torrential rain started in the afternoon and didn’t really stop all night. V-Varen also scored two great goals by Masakazu Yoshioka and Ryo Niizato. They then faced Kashima Antlers at Kashima Stadium in the semifinal and lost 3-2. It was a great fight, but it wasn’t meant to be.


V-Varen Nagasaki 3-1 Kamatamare Sanuki (2017)
Ryo Niizato after his Man of the Match performance against Kofu in the 2019 Emperor’s Cup quarter-final.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]

The V-Varen Nagasaki vs. Ventforet Kofu from the viewpoint of the excellent ‘Lost in Football Japan‘.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the history of the club?

The 2017 VVN Peace Shirt.

Shirts are a special topic with V-Varen. I remember one guy on the J-Talk: Extra Time Podcast once saying that the club seems to be unable to produce ugly shirts and I completely agree with that. The shirts have been designed by famous graphic designer Issen Okamoto, another Nagasaki native, for the past few years, and he usually takes inspiration from something related to Nagasaki. It is also a tradition in Japan for clubs to have special summer shirts and at V-Varen, the topic for that is always “Peace”. The club is very active when it comes to maintaining awareness about nuclear weapons and the attack on Nagasaki back in August 1945, and the clear vision of the club has always been to promote peace through football. So, the peace jerseys are always very popular. In 2017, one page on the internet crowned the peace jersey the most beautiful shirt in world football. So, I think this may be the most iconic one. But my personal favourites are the 2021 peace shirt and the 2022 home shirt. They are both just amazing in terms of the colours and Umbro did a cracking job in realizing Issen Okamoto’s designs.

The 2021 Peace Shirt.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]
The 2022 Home Shirt.
[IMAGE: Courtesy of Daniel]

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of VVN?

Taisei Abe

What I really like is how much the club is involved with the community and sticks to its mission and vision of becoming a major football club in Japan, an important part of Nagasaki’s culture and economy, and using that platform to promote peace and equality. What I have also found quite exciting is that the club is still comparably young. My favourite club here in Europe is Celtic and I can’t even tell you how many books I have already read about the club and its legendary players. With V-Varen, the club’s history has only just begun and I noticed that especially when guys like Yusei Egawa, Seiya Satsukida, and Taisei Abe signed their first professional contracts and I realized they were the first academy products to do so.

As for the worst things, the ones I can think of are not club-specific, but rather about following Japanese football from abroad in general (I am from Germany) like the kick-off times in winter, spring, and autumn. When the games start in the afternoon in Japan, it is early in the morning here and since I always post the starting XI on my fan accounts on Instagram and Twitter, I set my alarm at 2:15 hrs before kick-off. So, there are times when I wake up at around 2:45 or 3:45 am and then the game starts at 5 or 6 am. Other things that bother me sometimes are probably also related to different cultures and mentalities. For example, Japanese clubs in general do not provide much info about players’ injuries, although I think V-Varen have really improved on that this year, at least for long-term injuries. Another point is the length of contracts. Clubs announce players’ contract extensions every year and we rarely know for how long they have actually signed. I had a couple of cases where Nagasaki signed Brazilian players and I found details about the deals on Brazilian news. I am sure these things also have something to do with privacy and I respect that it is just the way it is in Japan, I am not the type of guy, who will say everything has to be done the same as in Europe. But every now and then it is a bit frustrating.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of V-Varen Nagasaki?

I have no doubt in my mind that V-Varen Nagasaki will get promoted to J1 sooner or later, even though to me that is not that important because I really love following J2 league (22 teams, no international breaks, no VAR). However, the club has been working so hard on that goal and the supporters are dreaming of returning to J1 as well, so I hope that this main goal will be achieved in the next for years because when it happens, it will just be a beautiful moment. Regardless of the success, I also just hope that the club stays true to itself and keeps its deep connection to Nagasaki and its people alive at all times.

The 2022 J2 League table at the time of writing (27th Sept 2022).
[IMAGE: J.League Website]

A massive thank you to Daniel from Nagasaki Blue & Orange, for answering our questions on the J2 side V-Varen Nagasaki, who are also The 94th Minute‘s favourite Japanese side. Remember you can find Nagasaki Blue & Orange‘s excellent blog and social media accounts in the links towards the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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