Kawabuchi – Time to do something in return
Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi is determined to make the AFC professional league reform project successful in return for the consideration Japanese football has received from colleagues across Asia in the past.
With his strong leadership and clear vision, Kawabuchi played a key role when the J.League was launched in 1993 and he has helped to ensure the success of the nation’s first professional league. It was for this very reason that he was appointed chairman of the AFC’s professional league ad-hoc committee by AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam.
Based on his experiences with the J.League, Kawabuchi noted that the revamp of Asia’s pro leagues will require drastic changes. “What we are doing in this pro league project is quite similar to when we started the J.League,” he said. “If you don’t do things in a drastic and comprehensive way, you can’t say you’ve really changed anything and you are not as likely to be successful.”
In a presentation to his colleagues at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur in May, Kawabuchi called for understanding and cooperation and underlined the need for exacting criteria to be set for the participating associations. He highlighted the “before and after” situation in relation to the J.League to show what kind of results can be achieved.
The 70-year-old Osaka native recalled how Japanese football had developed. “When i was a player, Asian countries helped us raise the level of Japanese football. Now it’s time for us to do something in return,” said Kawabuchi, who collected 26 caps as a player and represented Japan in the 1964 Olympics. He also coached the national team between 1980 and 1981.
Kawabuchi will step down from the JFA presidency next June when his term comes to an end and the AFC project is expected to be the final undertaking of his career. “If we make this successful, Asia will change. The new AFC Champions League can work as a stimulus for Asian football,” he noted.