Highlighting JAPAN Vol.121 June 2018
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SPORTS have always been popular in Niigata 1KATSUYA YAMADAPrefecture at the school and regional levels, but competition at the pro level first took root here with soccer when Albirex Niigata, which evolved from the Niigata Eleven Soccer Club founded in 1955, joined the Japan Professional Football League (J.League) in 1999. Following the construction of Big Swan, a Niigata stadium that was a 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan venue, Albirex Niigata focused on building a fan base through measures such as distributing free tickets to people in neighboring areas. The result was a tenfold increase in attendance figures just four years after Albirex Niigata entered the J.League. In the realm of pro basketball, Niigata Albirex BB belongs to the Japan Men’s Professional Basketball League (B.League). The team makes good use of the proximity of their home arena, City Hall Plaza Aore Basketball and soccer season are slightly out of sync, which allows fans to cheer on both teams. Sometimes Albirex soccer fans attend basketball games wearing their team shirts.The Albirex Niigata pro soccer team, Niigata Albirex BB pro basketball team and other local sports squads are fostering a sense of unity and pride in Niigata Prefecture.12SOCCER AND BASKETBALL TEAMS HELP PUMP UP NIIGATA THE PROFESSIONALTOUCH

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