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Kunishige KAMAMOTO

Japan Football Hall of Fame

1st group of inductees, 2005
Born in Kyoto Prefecture on 15 April 1944.
Begins playing football in his fourth year of elementary school, eventually joining Yanmar Diesel after graduating from Yamashiro High School and Waseda University. Finishing as top scorer in the Kanto University League for four years in succession during his Waseda days. Totals 202 goals in 251 career appearances in the JSL (with Yanmar). Achieves unprecedented list of honours, including award for fighting spirit in 1968, finishing as JSL top scorer seven times, leading the league in assists three times, being named in the league's annual best XI 14 times, and winning the overall player of the year award seven times.
Appears at the 4th and 5th Asian Youth Championships as a member of the Japanese national youth team.
Appears at the Games of the 18th (Tokyo, 1964) and 19th Olympiad (Mexico City, 1968) with the full national team. Finishes as overall top scorer in Mexico City with 7 goals, helping Japan to the bronze medal. Also appears in 5th (third place), 6th (fourth place), and 7th editions of the Asian Games. Ends national team career having played in 76 "A" matches, scoring 75 goals.
Appointed as manager of the Yanmar Diesel team in 1978; initially as player-manager until retiring from playing duties in 1984. During his time in charge, the team wins the JSL First Division title once, and the JSL Cup on two occasions. Later appointed as manager of the Matsushita Electric Industrial team in 1991 ahead of their entry to the J League (as Gamba Osaka), staying at the helm until 1995.
Appointed vice-chairman of the JFA in 1998. Sits on the board of the Japan World Cup Organising Committee and is appointed as chair of the Strengthening Promotion Division for 2002, devoting his efforts into the success of the tournament and the improvement of the Japanese national team.
Elected to the House of Councillors for the first time in 1995. Serves as labour parliamentary vice-minister in the second Mori Cabinet in 2000.
Elected to Japan Football Hall of Fame as part of first group of inductees in 2005.

*Information supplied by Japan Football Museum

Introduction

The greatest masterpiece of the 20th century

Kunishige Kamamoto was the greatest striker produced by Japanese football in the entire 20th century, and his name was known throughout the world. With seven goals (in six games) as a forward with the Japanese national team at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968, he both took the title as the tournament's top scorer and contributed to Japan's success in achieving third place and the bronze medal.

His record of 75 goals in "A" matches (76 matches) throughout his 14-year career with the Japanese national team, from 1964 to 1977, remains unbeaten to this date. In domestic football, he scored 202 goals (in 251 games) in 17 seasons (1967-83) with Yanmar Diesel in the Japan Soccer League (JSL), and a total of 60 goals (in 59 games) in the Emperor's Cup between 1964 and 1984 (with Waseda University and Yanmar Diesel). Such prolific figures helped him achieve winners' medals four times in the JSL and seven times in the Emperor's Cup.

Despite remaining amateur, Kamamoto also managed to score goals in matches against top-class professional opposition such as Palmeiras (Brazil), Arsenal (England), Borussia Monchengladbach (then West Germany), and Benfica (Portugal). Having played against him, global superstars such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, and Wolfgang Overath were all quick to offer their high praise for his performances.

Further evidence of the regard in which he was held overseas came in his selection for a World Select XI in a UNICEF charity match (to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Barcelona FC's foundation) in 1980 at the relatively advanced age of 36, and in the fact that two real stars of the world game, Pele and Overath, presented him with flowers at his retirement game in Tokyo in August 1984.

The year after "Mexico", Kamamoto spent time sidelined in hospital with hepatitis, which ultimately served as a fatal blow to the hopes of the JFA and of Dettmar Cramer to build on this Olympic bronze medal and take Japan to the World Cup. Following his recovery, Kamamoto did return to the national team from 1970, but some of the momentum of the "Mexico generation" had been lost, and without proper preparations to bring through the next generation of players, Japanese football entered a lengthy period of stagnation.

However, even throughout the 1970s, Kamamoto lost none of his desire for goals and hatred for losing. On the contrary, he even managed to refine his goalscoring technique even further, and a Kamamoto goal was always something that brought much pleasure to Japanese football fans.

In 1977, I worked with Kamamoto as his book, "Kunishige Kamamoto - Striker Techniques and Strategies", was published by Kodansha. Though this was the year that he finally retired from the Japanese national team, his playing career in the JSL was still going strong.

The video recorder had not yet entered people's homes by this point, but I decided that I wanted to make a visual record of Kamamoto's playing style. I used a 25 frames-per-second, motor drive camera to take a huge succession of photographs, and recorded a commentary to describe his own, individual technique.

Around the same time, I looked back on negatives of similar photographs taken by two cameramen to record all of his matches throughout an entire year. It was astonishing to see just how this player's approach to the ball, steps, impact, and follow-through when shooting were always exactly the same. His technique and posture when heading was similar - always stable and beautiful - from his vision to ready himself for the moment the crosser played the ball, to his determination of the ball's point of fall, his steps, his jump, and finally his contact with the ball in the air.

His body was unusually well-built for a Japanese, he had developed his own precise techniques for shooting and heading, and he knew how to use all of this to help his team, but the area in which Kamamoto had the most self-confidence of all was his ability to shoot and simply kick the ball. Having played alongside men such as Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, and Bernd Schuster in the World Select XI in Barcelona, Kamamoto said "seeing players like these showed me just how good the world's best footballers really were. Having said that, I still thought that I could shoot and kick the ball at least as well as any of them".

Since his retirement, Japan is still yet to produce a taller striker than Kunishige Kamamoto. This may make it seem as if Kamamoto was something of a freak of nature within Japanese football, but if we look back at the technical history of the sport within Japan - and at the succession of strikers from Shiro Teshima, the small centre-forward at the 1930 Far Eastern Championship Games; to Taizo Kawamoto (another centre-forward), one of the heroes of the dramatic victory at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936; and Hirokazu Ninomiya, the centre-forward at the 1st Asian Games in 1951 - we can see that Kamamoto was undoubtedly a player that had developed in the wake of the general improvement in Japanese football throughout this time.

Profile

  • 15 April 1944 - Born in Kyoto
  • April 1951 - Enters Uzumasa Elementary School in Kyoto, where he begins playing football in his fourth year.
  • April 1957 - Enters Hachigaoka Junior High School in Kyoto.
  • April 1960 - Enters Yamashiro High School. School wins title at National Sports Festival in Kumamoto in October.
  • January 1962 - Runner-up in High School Championship. Takes part in first overseas tour with national youth team in April.
  • April 1963 - Enters School of Commerce at Waseda University. Embarks on second overseas tour with national youth team in April.
    November - Waseda University wins Kanto University League, with Kamamoto finishing as top scorer (11 goals) for the first of four consecutive seasons.
  • January 1964 - Waseda University wins 43rd Emperor's Cup. Kamamoto takes part in tour of Southeast Asia with full Japanese national team in March.
    October - Appears in Tokyo Olympic Games as Japan beats Argentina to reach quarter-finals.
  • December 1966 - Appears in 5th Asian Games (Bangkok). Japan finish in 3rd place.
  • March 1967 - Named as player of the year for 1966.
    April - Joins Yanmar Diesel. Plays in Japan Soccer League for the first time.
    September - Appears in Asian qualifying tournament for Mexico City Olympic Games. Japan win right to represent Asia.
  • January 1968 - Travels to West Germany to study.
    October - Japan win bronze medal at Mexico City Olympic Games. Kamamoto finishes as overall top scorer with 7 goals.
  • January 1969 - Yanmar Diesel win Emperor's Cup for the first time ever.
    March - Named as player of the year for the second time.
    June - Admitted to hospital with viral hepatitis. Misses qualifiers for World Cup before returning to action midway through league season.
  • November 1970 - Finishes as top scorer of the Japan Soccer League for the second time, after 1968.
    December - Japan finish fourth at the 6th Asian Games (Kamamoto scores 3 goals).
  • September 1971 - Japan are eliminated in qualifying for the Munich Olympic Games.
    November - Yanmar Diesel win Japan Soccer League title for the first time ever.
  • March 1972 - Named as player of the year (for 1971) for the third time.
    July - Finishes as top scorer in the Merdeka Tournament in Malaysia (15 goals).
  • 1973 - Japan fail to qualify for World Cup in West Germany.
  • June 1974 - Travels to Europe and watches World Cup.
    September - Japan eliminated in first round of 7th Asian Games.
    December - Yanmar Diesel win league for the second time. Kamamoto finishes as top scorer for the fourth time.
  • January 1975 - Yanmar Diesel win Emperor's Cup for the third time.
    March - Named as player of the year for the fourth time.
    December - Wins league title for the third time. Finishes as top scorer for the fifth time.
  • March 1976 - Japan are eliminated in qualification for the Montreal Olympic Games.
    March - Named as player of the year for the fifth time.
    June - Yanmar takes title in the Queen's Cup (Thailand)
  • March 1977 - Japan are eliminated in qualification for the World Cup.
    June - Retires from Japanese national team following regular match with South Korea. September - Retirement ceremony for Kamamoto held at Pele's retirement game.
  • February 1978 - Becomes player-manager of Yanmar Diesel.
  • September 1979 - Makes 200th appearance in Japan Soccer League.
  • October 1980 - Wins league title in third season as player-manager.
    December - Appears in Unicef charity match (Barcelona).
  • March 1981 - Named as player of the year for the sixth time.
  • November - Scores 200th career league goal in match against Honda FC.
  • May 1982 - Scores 202nd career league goal in match against Hitachi.
    March - Snaps Achilles tendon in match against Mazda (Toyo Industries).
  • 3 November 1983 - Makes first appearance in Japan Soccer League for 18 months.
  • January 1984 - Makes final playing appearance in Emperor's Cup final.
    13 February - Announces playing retirement.
    25 August - Retirement match at National Olympic Stadium. Friends Pele and Wolfgang Overath play in game.
  • February 1985 - Resigns as manager of Yanmar Diesel.
  • July 1991 - Appointed as manager of the Matsushita Electric Industrial team in 1991 ahead of their entry to the J League (as Gamba Osaka).
  • January 1995 - Resigns as manager of Gamba Osaka. Elected to the House of Councillors in July.
  • July 1998 - Appointed as vice-chairman of the JFA.
  • July 1999 - Appointed as chair of the Strengthening Promotion Division for 2002.
  • July 2000 - Appointed as labour parliamentary vice-minister (leaving office on 6 December).
  • 27 May 2005 - Elected into the Japan Hall of Fame as part of the first group of inductees.


  • Kunishige Kamamoto - team honours
    • Yanmar Diesel
    • 4 Japan Soccer League titles (1971, 74, 75, 80)
      3 Emperor's Cup titles (1968, 70, 74)
      5 times Emperor's Cup runners-up (1971, 72, 76, 77, 83)
      1 Queen's Cup (Thailand) title (1976)
      2 Japan/Korea 1st Place Challenge titles (1976, 81)

    • Waseda University
    • 3 Kanto University League titles (1963, 65, 67)
      2 University Championship titles (1963, 65)
      1 University Tournament title (1966)
      2 Emperor's Cup titles (1964, 67)

    • Japanese national team
    • 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games - quarter-finals
      1968 Mexico City Olympic Games - bronze medal
      Asian Games:
      1966 (Bangkok) - 3rd place
      1970 (Bangkok) - 4th place
      Merdeka Tournament:
      1 second place (1976)
      1 third place (1972)
      1 fourth place (1975)