In the sporting sector, the co-operation includes coaching courses, training camp and intensive discussions surrounding the youth academy and scouting at both clubs. Sanfrecce Hiroshima, as well as FC, have set themselves the goal that they should be amongst the best clubs in the league at academy level. As for the management side of the partnership, seminars are planned in Hiroshima and Köln, where those in charge of departments from both clubs will come together to work on a strategy going forward.
“We are very pleased to have signed an agreement with the German traditional club, 1. FC Köln on a wide-ranging partnership. Sanfrecce Hiroshima has also set the goal of being the best club in Japan for producing young, talented footballers. Therefore, it is important for us to keep developing training in our youth academy,” said Shingo Senda, President and CEO of Sanfrecce Hiroshima. In the J.League, the club claimed the title in 2012, 2013 and 2015, finishing runners-up as recently as 2018. They were also crowned Japanese Super Cup winners in 1995, 1996, 2007 and 2013.
“1. FC Köln are fantastic when it comes to promoting youth. We are very confident, that this experience and know-how from Köln will help us in this area. Through the co-operation, we want to improve our youth academy and take another step in the right direction,” explained Shingo Senda.
“FC and Japan are closely connected over the last few decades. Thanks to the co-operation with Sanfrecce Hiroshima – which has always been marked by respect for one another and lots of trust – we will this special relationship with new life. The goal is to build up a network, where the two clubs can profit in both a sporting and economic sense,” said Werner Wolf, 1. FC Köln President.
Alexander Werhle, 1. FC Köln Managing Director, sees plenty of potential: “For us, Japan is an interesting market for many reasons. We will use the co-operation to share our expertise in Sport and Management, to increase the popularity of 1. FC Köln in Asia and to acquire new partners. The special awareness of tradition, which plays a major role in the FC family and in Japanese culture, will be an important link.”
FC have been cultivating relationships with its Japanese partners. In early 2021, virtual partner events were held with Nippon Sport Science University (NSSU), the Kyoto Football Association and Aioi High School. The aim was to train Japanese coaches and players and to increase the quality of football training for the Japanese partners in co-operation with the 1. FC Köln Football School Heinz Flohe. Amongst other things, FC are able to count on Yuka Hirano, who has played for the women's team for just over two years.
The connections between FC and Japan have a long tradition. Yasuhiko Okudera joined 1. FC Köln as the first professional Japanese player in Europe. He integrated himself quickly and was part of the most successful era in FC history, as 1. FC Köln won the Double in 1978. Pioneer became the club’s first kit sponsor in 1979. Tomoaki Makino, who joined FC from Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kazuki Nagasawa and Yuya Osako have also played for the club.
Former FC players have also tried their luck in Japan. Pierre Littbarski and Frank Ordenewitz both turned out for JEF United Ichihara Chiba. Milivoje Novakovic featured for Ōmiya Ardija, Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus. FC fan-favourite and 2014 World Cup winner, Lukas Podolski was with Vissel Kobe for over two years. Since 1963, Köln and Kyoto have been sister cities. The Hiroshima-Nagasaki-Park at Aachener Weiher remembers the atomic bomb attacks on the two Japanese cities and is a sign for peace and solidarity.
Sanfrecce Hirsohima was a founding member of the J.League in 1993. The club was formed as it currently is. However, the roots of the club lie in the team founded back in 1938 by Mazda workers, meaning it is the oldest club in the J.League. In 1965, the club won the first-ever Japanese Championship. Further titles followed in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1970 as well as success in the 1965, 1967 and 1969 Emperor’s Cup.