Vegalta Sendai

ベガルタ仙台 / Vegalta Sendai

  • City: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Tōhoku / 仙台市, 宮城県, 東北地方
  • Founded: 1988
  • Ground: Yurtec Stadium Sendai (19,694)
  • Nicknames: n/a
  • Colours: Yellow shirts with red and blue trim, blue shorts with yellow trim, and yellow socks.
  • 2023 League: J.League 2
  • Club Website: https://www.vegalta.co.jp/
  • Club Twitter: @vega_official_

Honours

  • Best League Finish: 2nd in the J.League 1 (2012)
  • Best Emperor’s Cup Finish: Finalists (2018)
  • J.League Division 1
    • Runners-Up (1): 2012
  • J.League Division 2
    • Champions (1): 2009
  • Emperor’s Cup
    • Finalists (1): 2018
  • Regional League Promotion Series
    • Champions (1): 1994
  • Tohoku Football League Division 1
    • Champions (1): 1994

Vegalta Sendai / ベガルタ仙台 is a Japanese football team that currently plays in the J.League Division 2, the second tier in the Japanese football pyramid, after being relegated from the top flight in 2021. The club is based in “The City of Trees / 杜の都“, the academic, port city and transport hub of Sendai / 仙台市 which is one of Japan’s 20 designated cities and is situated on the northeastern coast of Honshu. Sendai is the largest city in the Tōhoku region with a population of just under 1,1 million inhabitants. Vegalta Sendai play the majority of their home games at the 19,694-capacity Yurtec Stadium Sendai / ユアテックスタジアム仙台 which is located in Izumi-ku, the most northernmost ward of the city and was first opened in July 1997. The stadium can be found within Nanakita Park, just north of the Nanakita River which flows through the north of the city. For games where the spectator capacity is insufficient, the nearby 49,133-capacity Miyagi Stadium / 宮城スタジアム is occasionally used as a substitute for Vegalta Sendai home games. Situated in the town of Rifu, located on the northeastern outskirts of Sendai, the stadium was constructed for the 2002 World Cup, where it held two group games, and hosted the Round of 16 game between the co-hosts Japan and the surprise package Türkiye, which saw the eventual bronze medalists win by a single goal from Ümit Davala.

The club was founded in 1988 as Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc. Soccer Club, the factory team of the local electric company and competed in the local leagues before getting promoted to the Japan Football League (JFL) in 1994 when they won the Regional League Promotion Series under the name of Brummell Sendai. Brummell Sendai competed in the JFL for four years before earning a promotion to the J.League Division 2. To reflect their ascension to professional football in 1999, the club changed its name to its current monicker with the prefix “Vegalta” being chosen as a homage to the famous Tanabata festival in Sendai. The names of the two celestial stars of the Tanabata legend, Vega and Altair were combined to form the unique portmanteau of the club.

Vegalta spent three seasons in the J2 before finally ascending to the J1 in 2001 after finishing as runners-up to Kyoto Purple Sanga and earning promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history. Alas, their initial stay in the J1 would be brief and were relegated after just two seasons in the J.League 1. Returning back to the second tier, Vegalta consolidated and continually finished as one of the stronger teams within the J2, finishing no lower than sixth position in their six years at the second tier. Eventually, Vegalta returned back to the J1 when they clinched the 2009 J2 league title and were promoted as champions, finishing two points ahead of runners-up Cerezo Osaka, and earning 106 points! This hard-earned success came after losing the previous year’s Promotion/Relegation two-legged series, being defeated 2-3 on aggregate to Júbilo Iwata in the last time the J.League playoff was held.

The success of Vegalta Sendai would initially continue into their second stint of J1 football when they improved upon their league position in their first three seasons, finishing in 14th, then 4th position, before a historic runners-up league finish in the 2012 J1 season. Despite the region being heavily damaged and affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the club almost achieved a fairytale storyline when they led the table for the majority of the season before eventually failing in the penultimate weekend of the season to finish behind eventual champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Sadly, since the highs of the 2012 season, the fortunes of Vegalta Sendai have worsened with the club continually finishing in the bottom half of the J1 table since their second-place-finish heroics. They did manage to reach the final of the 2018 Emperor’s Cup, their first final appearance in Japan’s national cup competition, but lost by a single goal to Urawa Red Diamonds.

Vegalta Sendai’s tenure in the J1 would eventually come to an end after twelve seasons when they finished in 19th position (out of 20 teams) and nine points adrift of safety to be relegated back to the J2 league. This past season has been a tough season for Vegalta as they finished in seventh position in the 2022 J2 table, their lowest league placement since their debut season in the J.League in 1999, and missed out on the promotion playoffs by a single point, with their local rivals Montedio Yamagata taking the final playoff berth.

To talk about a club that finished as the 2012 J.League runners-up, and is currently competing in the J.League Division 2, we spoke to the excellent Vegalta Blog. They are an unofficial English-language blog that reports on all things going on at Vegalta Sendai, as well as producing excellent and well-researched articles about the club. To find out more about the Vegalta Blog blogsite, as well as their social media channels, follow the links below:

Q. Firstly, why did you decide to start following Vegalta Sendai?

I started going to their games because I used to live in Sendai, but after just one or two games I fell in love with them. The fanbase is so friendly with families and elders being able to sit in the ultras section without any problems. We keep going and support the team even when we are 1 or 2 goals down. The atmosphere is always superb and we arguably have the best home crowd in J.League.

Q. Who would you say is Vegalta Sendai’s best player, and coach/manager of all time?

Ryang Yong-gi
[IMAGE: Vegalta Sendai Website]

This is quite a difficult question, but for the player, I would go with [40-year-old midfielder] Ryang Yong-Gi who is a North Korean international but was born and raised in Japan (a Zainichi Korean). He has been with us for a very long time, since 2004 from his first stint, and has achieved 604 appearances, 83 goals, and 61 assists for the club which probably justifies his legendary status at the club.

Makoto Teguramori

For the best coach, it is probably Makoto Teguramori [who managed the club in twice, the first stint between February 2008 and November 2013, and the second from February to November 2021] who brought us up from the second division in 2009 and was with the club through a difficult period after the 2011 tsunami. Despite that, he amazingly achieved a runners-up position in the 2012 J.League too. Even though his second stint at the club involved relegation from the J1 in 2021, I would say that everyone at the club still loves and respects him.

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

Shingo Tomita
[IMAGE: Vegalta Sendai Website]

It has to be [36-year-old] midfielder Shingo Tomita. He’s been at the club since his debut in 2005, and although he’s not as recognized as Ryang, I am sure that everyone loves him. He’s a one-club man too which adds to his cult appeal.

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

Motohiko Nakajima
[IMAGE: Vegalta Sendai Website]

It would be [23-year-old] Motohiko Nakajima, who is currently on loan from J1 side Cerezo Osaka, and we have just extended his loan to the end of next season. He is a versatile central midfielder, who always brings creativity to games and scores goals out of nothing.

Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

Yuma Obata
[IMAGE: Vegalta Sendai Website]

Yuma Obata, our young 21-year-old goalkeeper. He is born and bred in Sendai, and he has already become our number 1. We hope that he can become Japan’s no.1 in the future.

Q. Who would you regard as Vegalta’s biggest or historical rivals?

We don’t really have a fierce rival. Something closest to a fierce rivalry is probably with our neighbour Montedio Yamagata. Urawa Red Diamonds did bring a huge number of away fans to our stadium every time we played them in J1, but they beat us every single time we played them, so I would not say that it is much of a rivalry.

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

Sadly, we messed up our promotion hopes so bad. We were at the top of the J2 table at one point but managed to miss out on a promotion/relegation play-off spot by the end of the season. However, our board has managed to resolve our financial issues and this is the first time in 3-4 years that we are now operating on a profitable scale, so we can hopefully spend more money on players now. We have brought in a lot of J1-level players to push for promotion next season, so I would say that I am looking forward to the next season.

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

I think the best thing about supporting Vegalta is how the club has connected to and aligned itself with the local community. Everyone at the club is trying to improve and elevate Miyagi prefecture so that it can be known throughout the world.

The bad part could be that Sendai, Miyagi is not really flush with large corporations or companies like in other parts of the country, so we have been a bit short of potential financial power or big sponsorships to compete in J1. However, we recently alleviated our financial situation, so I am looking forward to the next season.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Vegalta Sendai?

I think the club had changed its direction recently and is going in the right direction but I would say that it might have to increase its reputation locally and regionally to progress further. Signing a few players to fulfil the Asian player quota might help in that regard. Anyway, the club is quite famous for its conservativeness, so maybe it could improve with some progressive thinking like hiring foreign managers, perhaps?

A massive thank you to the brilliant Vegalta Blog for answering our questions on the J.League Division Two side Vegalta Sendai. Remember you can find their blogsite 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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