The Urawa Red Diamonds (Urawa Reds) are a professional soccer club in the J. League, and they are one of the 10 teams (The Original 10) that joined the J. League when it was first launched in 1993. Their home town is Saitama city in Saitama prefecture, and their home stadium is the Saitama Stadium 2002.
The team was first founded in 1950 as the Mitsubishi Motors Soccer Club, and they joined the Japan Soccer League (JSL) right as it was launched in 1965. They hold the record for the highest number of victories and scored points in JSL. On top of that, they achived 4 time JSL’s first division’s champions, 2 time JSL Cup winners, 4 time Emperor’s Cup champions.
In 1993, they took part in the J. League’s opening match as one of the original 10, but for 3 consecutive seasons, they were stuck in last place. Together with Gamba Osaka and Nagoya Grampus, they were called the J. League’s baggage.
However, when former German national team players Guido Buchwald and Uwe Bein, who were victorious in the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, joined the team in the 2nd stage in 1994, the team started to show signs of gradual improvements. And when Holger Osieck, also a German, was hired as manager the next year, they suddenly made rapid progress.
Buchwald brought stability in the team’s defense, and Bein pulled the team as their play maker. Besides, Japan national team player, Masahiro Fukuda, who was affectionately called Mr. Reds, and who has been a central player in the team since the founding days, produced goal after goal and became the first Japanese player to be awarded the J. League Top Scorer title. With their help, in 1995, the team managed to finish the 2nd stage in 3rd place.
In 1998, Shinji Ono, who at the time was known as Japan’s most talented player, joined the team. Already on his first season, Ono produced 9 goals, earning the Rookie of the Year award and the J. League Best Eleven award with leading Reds to 3rd place in the 2nd stage.
However, in 1999, their results were again sluggish, and after a 15th place finish, they relegated to the J. League’s second division (J2). When the Urawa Reds, who were known as the J. League’s most popular team and were always in first place in their ability to draw viewers, dropped to the 2nd division, it was also covered on television, newspapers and magazines.
After the humiliating defeat, the red devils were determined to make a comeback to J1 within one year, and it was at this point when they started to change into the nation’s biggest club.
First, in the final of the 2003 Nabisco Cup, they scored an easy 4-0 victory against Kashima Antlers, and with that the Urawa Reds experienced their first championship victory. Next, when the Urawa’s OB, Buchwald, was hired as manager in 2004, team entered their golden age as they started earning titles almost every year, with the 2nd stage in 2004, the Emperor’s Cup in 2005 and the double titles of J. League and the Emperor’s Cup in 2006.
In 2007, under the management of Osieck, who was now on the team as manager for the second time, the Reds became the first Japanese club to become the champions of the AFC Champions League, and they earned the right to appear in the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup.
In the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup against AC Milano that had Kaka, Pirlo, and Seedorf in their squad, the Reds suffered a narrow defeat at 0-1, but still managed to secure 3rd place.
After the tournament, Makoto Hasebe, who was the central player during the Reds’ golden age, transferred to Germany’s VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.
While Hasabe was with Wolfsburg, he dominated the Bundesliga, and he also played as a starter for Nuremberg and Frankfurt. On top of that, he grew to become a player that would lead the Japan national team as their captain for many years.
On the other hand, the Urawa Reds faded away from the titles for a while, but in 2015 they again won the 1st stage, then the 2nd stage and the J. League Cup in 2016.
In the 2017 AFC Champions League, with big Asian teams like the Shanghai SIPG F.C., FC Seoul, and Al-Hilal FC as their opponents, Urawa continued to win, and eventually earned their second glorious Asian championship title.
Hopes are high that next they will once again claim the J. League championship title, which is something that has eluded them since 2006.
The team’s home jerseys are red like their team name states, and their supplier since 2004 has been Nike. Their jerseys have sponsor logos from Polus, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, KFC, DHL, and others.