J. LEAGUE: Forgotten Nigerian Striker Celebrates As Kyoto Secures Promotion After 11 Years

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Former Nigeria striker Peter Utaka was in a joyous mood as his Japanese side Kyoto Sanga earned promotion to the J. League’s first division next season with a scoreless draw at JEF United Chiba on Sunday in the league’s second flight.

Sanga, which last played in J1 in 2010, entered the day needing just one point and the scoreless draw moved them up to 83 points. Their nearest promotion rival, Ventforet Kofu, won 1-0 away at Renofa Yamaguchi to move up to 79, but all teams have only one game remaining.

Kyoto, which joined the J. League in 1996, rediscovered its winning ways under first-year manager Cho Kwi-jae, who led Shonan Bellmare to promotion three times between 2012 and 2017 before a power-harassment scandal led to his 2019 dismissal.

Peter Utaka in celebration mood.

The Kansai club repeatedly came close to promotion over the last decade, losing the 2013 J1 Playoff Final to Tokushima Vortis and dropping out in the same tournament’s semifinals in 2012 and 2016.

Jubilo Iwata, who had already secured promotion after a two-year absence from the top flight, sealed the J2 title thanks to Kyoto’s stalemate. Jubilo also drew 0-0 away to Thespa Kusatsu Gunma and has 88 points.

With relegation suspended in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the J1 swelled to 20 teams this season but will return to the standard 18 next year. To that end, the bottom four J1 sides will automatically drop, with the top two J2 clubs going up.

Peter Utaka who won just seven cap for Nigerian senior National team, Super Eagles has scored 43 times for Kyoto Sanga in 77 appearance since he joined from Ventforet Kofu in 2020.

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