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Tomisaburo HIRAI

Japan Football Hall of Fame

1st group of inductees, 2005
5th JFA President (term: 1976-1987)
Born in Tokyo on December 13, 1906.
Graduated from Tokyo Imperial University.
Performs executive roles in several companies, including as president of Nippon Steel Corporation. Also takes executive positions in several economic organizations, including as member of the Policy Board of the Bank of Japan.
While still vice-president of Nippon Steel Corporation, is appointed as Japan Football Association president in response to a strong request from Hideo Shinojima, a friend of his from their time at Tokyo Imperial University. Promotes financial reform of JFA, achieving recovery from crippling debt, and raising the basic level of funds of the organization to 100 million yen by the time of his retirement. His achievements serve as the financial foundations for the current-day JFA.
Also devotes efforts to strengthening and popularising soccer in Japan. Sets up the Japan Cup (Kirin Cup) in 1978 with the aim of strengthening the Japan national team. Arranged for the Intercontinental Cup, which had been on hiatus, to be held in Japan as the Toyota Cup from 1981.
Awarded Blue Medal of Honour in 1973, and 1st Class Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1979.
Passes away in 2003.

*Information supplied by Japan Football Museum


Rebuilt the JFA's finances to lead the way for the next period of

Tomisaburo Hirai, who had been a major player in the business world as president and chairman of Nippon Steel Corporation, was appointed as president of the JFA (Japan Football Association) in response to a request from Hideo Shinojima (1910-1975), a friend of his for some fifty years.

Under the leadership of the fourth JFA president, Yuzuru Nozu, Japanese soccer had achieved groundbreaking development culminating in the Mexico City Olympic Games, but even though the development of FIFA coaching course and many other businesses was essential and would be a major foundation for the future, their heavy financial burden had left the JFA with crippling debts.

Hirai worked to rebuild the JFA's finances. Although there was generally a strong trend at this time to rely on the personal financial means and fundraising abilities of major business personalities whenever they were appointed to the senior management of amateur sports associations, Hirai first turned his attention to fundamental matters such as strict adherence to start times to board meetings, and established financial foundations by improving the association's organisation and providing leadership to the operations of executive director Ken Naganuma and the other young executives.

Hirai engaged not only in fiscal tightening, but also set up international matches - the Japan Cup or Kirin Cup - to strengthen the national team, and gained the right for Japan to host the annual Toyota Cup match that determined the top club side in the world.

Meanwhile, the training of coaches continued to gather pace, with the numbers of coaches increasing all across the country, and the penetration of soccer exceeding 50% of elementary school boys in urban areas of the Kanto and Kansai regions.

In 1978, the JFA registration system was changed from a social status distinction of "student" or "full member of society" to an age category-based system. This may have been entirely commonplace throughout the rest of the world, but for Japan, it was revolutionary.

This system had the effect of strengthening the fiscal foundations of the JFA, but the true benefits of this change for the public would be borne out when Japanese soccer later turned professional.

I once saw President Hirai in a Japanese restaurant in Madrid, during the 1982 World Cup. He had arrived alone, and was eating quietly with somebody from a local company. Having observed other old, senior figures in the world of sport act like royalty during overseas visits, this sight gave me a real insight into the attitude that this business leader was bringing to the restructuring of the JFA.

After the desperate promotion of a small number of players and the successes of the Tokyo and Mexico City Olympics, the Japanese national team failed to achieve significant results on the international stage, and for ten years was even labelled as stagnant by members of the media. However, the arrival at this time of a president with the major business management record of Tomisaburo Hirai was successful in allowing firm foundations to be laid for future breakthroughs for the JFA.