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So I've heard that Captain Tsubasa made football popular in Japan. Until the late 90's, Japan wasnt good at football, but later it was youth world sub champion, many japanese players are playing in Europe specially in Germany, you see actually skilled japanese players like there wasnt in the past, and in the last World Cup they won against 2 football superpowers (Spain and Germany)

Is it true that Captain Tsubasa made football popular in Japan, or the rise of popularity of football in Japan and the rise of popularity of Captain Tsubasa in a similar period of time is just a coincidence?

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I did not find information that could confirm an exact direct link, but I did find some statistics being mentioned in a website (link below) but I didn't find the references for that site.

Tsubasa manga started serialisation in 1981 and the anime came to be at around 1983. In 1981 the number of registered footballers in Japan was 68,900. 7 years later the number rose to 240,000.

The J.League was formed in 1992/1993, which was 10 years later.

It can be correlated that after the manga/anime interest in football increased in young people in Japan, but I couldn't find a study that directly stated that.

I've found a book (but I don't have access) that could help with your curiosity called "The development of football in Japan" By John Horne, Derek Bleakley.

Maybe someone else can shed some more light regarding this issue, but from what I've read it seems the Manga helped spark the initial increase of interest and then the investment/bet made to profissionalize the association/league etc might have helped to keep growing that popularity.

Information:

https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780203603376-8/development-football-japan-john-horne-derek-bleakley

https://realkm.com/2024/01/30/how-japan-revolutionized-football-with-knowledge/

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