Gamba Youth have been promoted to the Premier League – the highest level of youth football in Japan – after a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata Youth.
The youngsters topped the Kansai regional division of the Prince League – the second tier of youth football – to earn the right to face their Albirex counterparts in a one-off promotion playoff. The tie was decided by a 43rd minute strike from striker Daiki Deoka, which earned his side the right to play in the western division of the Premier League next year.
The promotion will be a massive relief to the club having narrowly missed out on the promotion playoffs last season when they finished second behind Vissel Kobe by just a single point. Vissel went on to gain promotion and finished second in the top flight behind eventual champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima this year, which shows that there isn’t a huge gulf between the first and second tiers. There will be little time to celebrate, however, as the team must now turn their attentions to the J Youth Cup, which resumes at the weekend.