アビスパ福岡 / Avispa Fukuoka
- City: Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture / 福岡市, 福岡県
- Founded: 1982 (as Chūō Bōhan S.C.)
- Ground: Best Denki Stadium (21,562)
- Nicknames: Avi; Hachi (Japanese: Hornet); Meishu
- Colours: Navy blue shirt with blue-green and grey vertical pinstripes, navy blue shorts, and navy blue socks with blue-green and grey trim.
- 2023 League: J1 League
- Club Website: https://www.avispa.co.jp/
- Club Twitter: @AvispaF
- Club Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avispaf
- Best League Finish: 8th in the J1 League (2021)
- Best Emperor’s Cup Finish: Quarter-finals (2010 and 2022)
- Japan Football League (second tier)
- Champions (1): 1995
- Japan Football League Division 2 (third tier)
- Champions (1): 1992
- All Japan Senior Football Championship
- Champions (2): 1989, 1990
Avispa Fukuoka / アビスパ福岡 is a Japanese club that currently plays in the J1 League, the top tier league in the Japanese football pyramid. They are based in the important and historic southwestern port city of Fukuoka / 福岡市, the sixth-largest city in Japan and the second-largest port city after Yokohama with a population of approximately 1,6 million inhabitants. Located on the shores of Hakata Bay, the city is the capital of the prefecture of the same name and is the most populous city on Kyūshū island, Japan’s most western and third-largest of the home islands.
Avispa Fukuoka currently plays its home games at the 21,562-capacity Higashi-Hirao Park Hakatanomori Football Stadium / 東平尾公園博多の森球技場, although it is known by its sponsored name of the Best Denki Stadium / ベスト電器スタジアム having previously been called the Level-5 Stadium between 2009 and 2019. The ground can be found in the eastern ward of Hakata / 博多区 within the Higashi-Hirao Park, which is next to Fukuoka Airport. The club has played at the football-specific stadium since it opened in 1995, and the ground was one of the venues used during the 2019 Rugby (Union) World Cup, hosting three group games during the tournament.
The club was initially founded in 1982 as Chūō Bōhan SC by the workers of the security company Chuo Bohan based in Fujieda, Shizuoka. Originally playing in the regional amateur leagues, the club started to get successful towards the end of the 1980s and the start of the 90s when it won two consecutive All-Japan Senior Football Championships before achieving promotion to the then-third tier Japan Football League (JFL) Division 2 in 1991. They won the title in the following year to quickly advance to the JFL Division 1. Following this promotion to the then-second tier, the club changed its name to Fujieda Blux with the intention to become a J.League member which did not allow sponsored team names. However, with difficulties finding a stadium that met J.League requirements, and with the local football fan base in Shizuoka prefecture already considered saturated, in 1994, they decided to move to Fukuoka where the community was eager to have a J.League club. Resultantly, they adopted the new name of Fukuoka Blux.
Their first season in their new home brought instant success as they won the 1995 JFL Division 1 title and earned a promotion to the J.League, although that would be the last trophy the club has won in its history to date. The promotion brought another name change, as fearing a potential trademark dispute, they changed their name to Avispa Fukuoka to start their J.League history. ‘Avispa‘ is the Spanish word for ‘wasp‘ and it was chosen as a prefix it was a local insect and represented the team’s light, disciplined and diverse group attacking style of play.
The history of Avispa Fukuoka within the J.League can be described as fluctuating as the club has bounced between the J1 and J2 leagues since 1996 and established a reputation for being a ‘yo-yo club’. Throughout that period they have yet to win any J2 titles but have gained promotion from the second tier on four occasions, most recently in 2020 when they were runners-up to Tokushima Vortis. However, the club seems to be experiencing its best period of results in its history. In Avispa’s first season back in the J1, they finished in eighth position, the highest league placement in their history. Whilst last season, despite finishing in fourteenth place in the league and just avoiding the relegation playoff by two points, the team reached the semi-finals of the J.League Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the Emperor’s Cup – their best performances in the national cup competitions. They would be one of the victims of Ventforet Kofu’s historical Emperor’s Cup victory with the J2 side beating Avispa 1-2 after extra time.
The 2023 season will be Avispa Fukuoka’s third consecutive season in the top flight – their longest stay in the J1 since their initial six-season stay in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
To answer questions about a club which are based in one of Japan’s biggest cities, but has often fluctuated between the top two tiers of the Japanese football pyramid, we interviewed the excellent Avispa-Unofficial-EN Twitter account. As their name suggests, they are an unofficial account that reports on all things happening at Avispa Fukuoka to international fans in the English language. If you would like to know more about AU-EN, then you can find the links to their social media accounts in the links below:
- Twitter: @avispa_en_unoff
Q. Firstly, how did you decide to start following and supporting Avispa Fukuoka?
The turning point at which I decided to support Avispa was when they were in serious financial trouble in 2013. I heard the club might go under if they couldn’t solve it. So I decided to help and support Avispa because I wanted to keep our local club in business. Actually, I hadn’t gotten into the club until that moment.
Q. From your time following the club, who has been your favourite player, and the reasoning behind your choice?
Emil Salomonsson [Swedish right-back currently with IFK Göteborg who played for Avispa between 2020 and 2021] and Naoki Wako [left-back who played for Avispa between 2018 and 2022 before being released at the end of last season]. Both were full-backs for the club, had good personalities, and showed a passion for the club. They worked hard and constantly sprinted up and down the pitch. Also, they helped and supported other players on and off the pitch.
Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?
Winger Kazuya Konno [who joined Avispa from FC Tokyo this season]. He has completely changed the attacking quality and can make a difference to the squad. When attacking he can either keep possession of the ball or dribble to make time and put pressure on opponents. Improvement of attacking play is the key for Avispa during this season, so they need more goals and Konno will help with that.
Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?
22-year-old forward Reiju Tsuruno. He is a rookie and has already scored during his debut match on March 8th [scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Albirex Niigata in the Levain Cup]. He’s something special.
Q. Who would you regard as Avispa’s biggest or historical rivals?
Sagan Tosu. Because we are neighbours and keep fighting for supporters in the same territory [both teams are based in northern Kyushu].
Q. What has been the best game, result, or performance from your time following the club?
The Fukuoka derby, in an away game versus Giravanz Kitakyushu in 2014. That was a stunning upset. When the 2nd half started, Avispa was two goals behind but just after the restart, we scored three goals in ten minutes to take the lead. That was amazing! We then added another two goals during the half, and Kitakyushu added an additional goal with Avispa eventually winning the match 5-3. That match was like we were on a roller coaster.
Q. What do you think of the situation in Japanese league football currently? Are there any improvements you would like to see happen?
There should be measures put into place to help increase attendances at stadiums. Currently, 60 clubs compete in the J.League and I would say about half of them (if not more) are struggling to improve their average attendances. Sadly, Avispa is one of those clubs.
Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this past season has gone?
Great so far. Even though the team has been challenged by attempting to implement a new style of play, they’ve still got good results, achieving three wins in a row in competitive matches. I hope they keep improving throughout the season.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?
The best thing is that I’ve made and got new friends outside my daily life. Football is getting included in my everyday life though. It is special to have supporter friends that share the same likes and interests as me.
The worst thing is that a bad result from the team influences my motivation to work.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Avispa Fukuoka?
I hope more players progress through the Avispa academy and manage to play all over the world including Avispa and the J.League. They already have examples to follow like Takehiro Tomiyasu in the English Premier League [playing for Arsenal], Yuta Mishima in the Thai league [playing for Angthong FC], and Kimiya Moriyama [20-year-old defender] currently in Avispa’s first team.
A massive thank you to the excellent Avispa-Unofficial-EN Twitter account for answering our questions on the J.League 1 side Avispa Fukuoka. Remember you can find their 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 email@example.com or send a message to @The94thMin on Twitter.