East Asia Japan

Heartbreak for Shibasaki, Jubilation for Okazaki

Krishna Sadhana

Football Tribe SEA Editor


The conclusion of the 2019-20 Segunda Division saw contrasting emotions from the Spanish second tier’s two Japanese imports. Gaku Shibasaki’s Deportivo La Coruna were condemned to their first relegation to the third tier in 40 years on Monday night, while Shinji Okazaki’s Huesca side were crowned champions of the division.

Former Leicester City striker Okazaki had scored in his side’s 3-0 win over Numancia on July 17th that ensured his side’s promotion to the La Liga next season, however it was a 1-0 win away at Sporting Gijon on Monday night that won the title for Huesca, after title rivals Cadiz, who had led the league throughout the season, succumbed to a 1-0 home defeat to strugglers Albacete. Huesca never led the table at any point of the season before Monday, however they consistently hovered around the top half of the table throughout the season and seized the summit when it mattered the most. 34-year old Okazaki, who had a brief yet turbulent spell at fellow Segunda Division side Malaga prior to his move to Huesca, scored 12 times in 36 appearances as he added the Spanish second tier title into his list of accolades.

Meanwhile, former La Liga champions Deportivo were relegated without even playing their last match of the season, after their final match of the season against play-off chasing Fuenlabrada was postponed due to a number of Fuenlabrada’s players being tested positive for COVID-19. Results elsewhere meant that should 20th placed Deportivo won their match against Fuenlabrada, they would go equal on points with 18th placed Ponferradina, however Deportivo’s inferior goal difference meant that 20 years from their only La Liga title, Deportivo were relegated into the Spanish third tier. Victories for Albacete and Deportivo’s Galician rivals Lugo have also condemned Deportivo to the drop.

Arriving at Deportivo from La Liga side Getafe, Shibasaki played 26 times for the Galician side, assisting twice as he oversaw a tumultuous season mired with financial mismanagement, boardroom shakeups, and leaky defenses. Current head coach Fernando Vazquez managed to somewhat steady the ship in the turn of the new year, only for a loss of form at the final stretch to seal Deportivo’s fate – three consecutive defeats pushed Deportivo back into a tight relegation dogfight before Monday’s postponement coupled with Albacete and Lugo’s victories confirmed the worst.

However, with both Deportivo and Fuenlabrada’s play-off chasing rivals Rayo Vallecano filing legal action against the postponement, things might change for the Galician fallen giants.

Elsewhere in the La Liga, Chinese international Wu Lei’s Espanyol and Japanese prodigy Takefusa Kubo’s Real Mallorca had confirmed their relegations to the Segunda Division earlier this month.