A perfect cup tie: when school kids taught the league champions a lesson

Not even the FA Cup first round produces underdogs as big as the Japanese high school team who played the J League champions in the Emperor’s Cup – and took them all the way

By Will Sharp for These Football Times

Japan’s main cup competition is similar to the FA Cup, the Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey in many ways. But one key difference is that the Emperor’s Cup encourages universities, colleges and even high school teams to compete, which is precisely how, in 2003, a team of teenage students came within inches of beating the champions of Japan.

Every club in Japan’s professional league system, the J League, is automatically granted entry to the Emperor’s Cup, where they are joined by teams that have won their regional cups. Each of these 47 regional competitions – one for every prefecture in Japan – is open to local clubs, universities and even schools. It is not uncommon for university teams to beat local semi-professional sides, but only on near-mythical occasions do high school sides vanquish all before them, win the trophy and qualify for the Emperor’s Cup. But that is how Funabashi Municipal High School began their remarkable journey in 2003.

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