Shonan Bellmare are a professional soccer club in the J. League, presently playing in the J2 league. Their home towns include their neighboring 7 cities and 3 towns including Atsugi and Hiratsuka city. The team’s home stadium is the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka (Hiratsuka City Multi-purpose Park).
The club started off in Tochigi prefecture in 1968 as the Fujita Soccer Club. They climbed from Tochigi League to Kanto League, promoted to Japan Soccer League’s (JSL) 1st division in 1972 and won the league championship twice, as well as the Emperor’s Cup 2 times. In 1993 they were recognized as a J. League associate and changed their name to Bellmare Hiratsuka.
After winning in the 1st division of JFL they were accepted into the J. League.
In their first season in the J. League in 1994, they ended the 1st stage 11th out of 12 teams, but in the 2nd stage they made rapid progress and with only one less point than the winners, Verdy Kawasaki, they came in 2nd place. This, along with their victory in the Emperor’s Cup final against Cerezo Osaka, which was their first championship trophy, caused a huge sensation.
In 1995, Hidetoshi Nakata joined Bellmare Hiratsuka. After graduating high school, Nakata immediately obtained a regular spot on the team, as well as becoming their play maker. This led him to be selected for the Japan National Team, where he lead the team all the way to the first FIFA World Cup appearance. Nakata was with Bellmare up to 1998, when he transferred to Serie A’s Perugia.
In 1999, Bellmare’s main sponsor, Fujita, withdrew their support due to reorganization in their management. Besides Nakata’s transfer, other top players also moved to other clubs, which left the team in ruins. In their league matches, they came in last place in both the 1st and 2nd stages, which led to their relegation to J2.
In an attempt to boost spirits and start from a clean slate, Bellmare Hiratsuka was renamed to Shonan Bellmare in 2000, but for a while they were unable to reach promotion level ranks.
Finally, in 2009, Bellmare’s old boy, Yasuharu Sorimachi rejoined the team, this time as the manager. With a successful early start, they eventually finished the season in 3rd place and after an 11 year pause, they climbed back to J1.
However, in 2010, they had the worst record in J1 and dropped back to J2. After that they have promoted and relegated several times and are now known as a yo-yo club.
The team’s home jersey is light green and their supplier from 2012 has been PENALTY. Their shirts are decorated with logos of their sponsors like MELDIA, The SANNO institute of management, and others.