Given the club's youth when compared to many of their J1 peers, S-Pulse have had a relatively large impact on Japanese football. They have won all three domestic cup competitions at least once and have also won the Asian Cup Winners Cup. However, the J. League Division 1 title has so far eluded them, coming closest in 1999 when, after winning the league's second stage, they lost out in the title deciding match to local rivals, Júbilo Iwata.
As a prefecture, Shizuoka had historically been a strong footballing area of Japan; in particular being noted for it's nationally successful high school teams and the numerous national team players which had emerged from the prefecture over the years. Indeed, the prefectural police force of Shizuoka has an anthropomorphic football as a mascot. The west of the prefecture was already home to the company team of Yamaha Motor Corporation who played in the Japan Soccer League and who would later go on to form Júbilo Iwata, but it was believed there was room for another team for the football-hungry population. With the advent of the professional league at the start of the 1990's, the wheels were put in motion to create a team to represent the east of the prefecture and to give opportunities to the wealth of footballing talent produced by the local high school teams.
Shimizu S-Pulse was formed in February, 1991 as Shimizu FC from the backing of local businesses and people. This was a beginning which made them unique among the founding clubs of the J. League, with all others ex-company teams turned professional. Two months after formation, the club name was officially changed to Shimizu S-Pulse. S-Pulse is a combination of the S from Shizuoka, Shimizu, Supporter and Soccer, and Pulse from English to mean the spirit of all those who support the team. The club played it's first ever game against Gamba Osaka on July 4th 1992, a date which is celebrated as the clubs memorial birthday. The match took place at the Nagai Stadium in Osaka. The club's first competitive game was against Nagoya Grampus September 5th of the same year, with the first competitive home game held at Nihondaira Stadium on September 9th 1992 against Yokohama Marinos. S-Pulse won their debut home game 2-1.
After being approved for participation in the J. League on February 4th 1991, S-Pulse competed in the inaugural 1992 J. League Cup and made it to their first final. However, the dream start ended with defeat at the hands of Verdy Kawasaki. In 1993, S-Pulse became one of the ten founder members of the new J. League, and finished third after the 1st and 2nd stages were combined. Their second venture into the J. League Cup was another near miss, again losing in the final to Verdy Kawasaki. Finally, in 1996 the team got their hands on the trophy and also gained revenge on Verdy, beating them 5-4 on penalties in the final.
1999 began with S-Pulse's first appearance in the Japanese Super Cup, replacing Yokohama Flügels after their merger with Yokohama Marinos. However, S-Pulse lost the match 2-1. After performing well in both league stages, S-Pulse were up against local rivals Júbilo Iwata in the title decider, and after a 3-3 aggregate draw, lost the tie 4-2 on penalties. The new millennium brought better results for S-Pulse. Victory in the Asian Cup Winners Cup in 2000 and victory in the final of the Emperor's Cup in 2001 meant that the S-Pulse trophy cabinet was beginning to fill up, and victories in the 2001 and 2002 Japanese Super Cups meant that the club had won four cups in three years.
In 2005, S-Pulse closed the year with a run to the Emperor's Cup final in which they did not concede a single goal. However, this changed in the final against Urawa Red Diamonds, which they lost 2-1. After a near-miss in the league, avoiding a relegation play-off by only goal difference, manager Kenta Hasegawa's work started to pay off the following year. In both 2006 and 2007 S-Pulse performed strongly in the league and finished in 4th place. However, early exits in both cup competitions in 2006, and again in 2007, means they are currently without a trophy for five years; the longest barren spell in their history.
In common with other J. League teams, S-Pulse have a colourful and noisy collection of supporters who follow the team around the country. A supporter band is present at games home and away to help galvanise support and raise the decibel levels. The band models itself to a large degree after its Brazilian counterparts, and Latin rhythms and samba sounds predominate. For home games, S-Pulse's more vocal supporters gather in the second tier of The Kop; the stand behind the west goal at Nihondaira Stadium. Also in this area can be found S-Pulse's band of ultras, who each game take over a central area behind the goal which has been dubbed The Dragon Zone. Often physical, it's not uncommon for the area to descend into a moshpit after important goals, and signs posted around the stand inform and caution general supporters of the area's lively nature. The club's official fan club has several branches around the country, and S-Pulse supporters are officially listed as the team's twelfth player.
Unlike all other professional teams at the time of the J. League's formation, S-Pulse was not the company team of a major corporation. As such, it wasn't able to enjoy the financial backing and security of other clubs. As well as originally gathering its playing staff almost exclusively from Shizuoka prefecture, local corporation S-Lap Communications ran and financed the club. This was a company funded in part from Shimuzu citizens, but in main by Shizuoka Television. After the J. League bubble burst in the late 1990's, Shizuoka Television withdrew backing, and in 1998 only a drastic restructuring kept the club afloat. Ownership of S-Pulse was reorganized between local companies under the leadership of Shimizu based Suzuyo Corporation. It is now run under the company title of S-Pulse, Inc.
Despite their relatively short history, S-Pulse have had some impact on popular culture beyond football. Current manager and former player of some eight years and over 200 appearances, Kenta Hasegawa, makes occasional appearances in popular manga and anime series Chibi Maruko-chan. In the show a boy called with his name kun who loves football and is a classmate of title character Chibi Maruko is sometimes seen. The author of the manga, Momoko Sakura, created this character after Hasegawa. Sakura and Hasegawa attended the same primary school during the same period. In another example, two fictional characters from the popular Captain Tsubasa manga, who, on becoming professional footballers, join S-Pulse.
S-Pulse's home arena is the Nihondaira Sports Stadium located in Shimizu, with a capacity of 20,339. However, over their J. League history S-Pulse have, for various reasons such as construction works to enlarge Nihondaira, staged home games at a number of different sports grounds. These include the local Kusanagi Sports Ground and, more further afield, the National Stadium in Tokyo. "Home" games held in Tokyo rarely failed to attract crowds above and beyond what could have been accommodated at Nihondaira, nor did results proved especially favourable. At the start of 2007 in was announced all home games for the upcoming season would be staged at Nihondaira for the first time since 1999; a decision repeated for 2008.
The most common reason for moving games has been the restrictively low capacity of Nihondaira. This has often lead the club to stage fixtures against neighbouring Júbilo Iwata and other high profile clashes, at Shizuoka "Ecopa" Stadium. This stadium was built in 2001 for the following year's World Cup and has a capacity of 51,349. Despite still being in Shizuoka Prefecture, Ecopa is over an hour's travel from Shimizu, deep within the Jubilo catchment area. For such a fiercely contested derby, much of the home advantage is lost; a factor which contributed in part to the staging of the 2007 derby at Nihondaira despite demand for tickets far outstripping supply. The decision paid off with a home victory.
In October 2008 it was announced that naming rights would be sold for Nihondaira Stadium. While still in the early stages of planning with no contract yet confirmed, the deal will run for at least four years and is expected to be worth over 90 000 000 yen.
Located near the famous Miho no Matsubara, are S-Pulse's main training facilities. Named Miho Ground, in addition to player training sessions, it is also the venue for most Satellite League matches. Training sessions are open to the public for autograph hunters. The Miho Ground has also housed the club offices since the clubs foundation.
Since the teams inception, the same colour combination for home shirts have been used each year. The colour scheme of orange shirts, shorts and socks was selected to reflect the famous local product of Shizuoka Prefecture; the mikan. The current bright orange hue, named S-Pulse Orange by the club, is the result of a gentle evolution from a more yellow/orange shade during the team's early years. The away kit has also been consistent over the years, comprising each year of white shirts, black shorts and white socks. There is currently no third kit. Goalkeeping colors have changed more over the seasons, with the current first choice kit all black, and all green being the second choice.
Kit manufacturers have been exclusively Puma since 1997, and prior to this was shared with Mizuno. Shirt sponsors have been fairly consistent over the team's sixteen year history (see table below). The team's current main shirt sponsor is the local Suzuyo Group, with additional sponsorship panels on the lower neck and arms from confectionery company Glico, and airline JAL, respectively.
|Season(s)||Main Shirt Sponsor||Additional Sponsor(s)||Kit Manufacturer|
|2005||JAL||Glico, Star, The 3rd Planet||Puma|
|2006||Suzuyo||Glico, JAL, The 3rd Planet||Puma|
Unchanged since the club's formation in 1991, the team crest was designed around a globe to reflect the club's ambitions as a world class professional team. The head of the badge takes the iconic shape of Mt. Fuji's perfect cone to symbolise the team's representation of Shizuoka; the home Mt. Fuji. The choice of blue to accompany the team's orange evokes Shimizu's history as an industrial port town and it's proximity to the sea of Suruga Bay. The team crest differs from the team logo which is often used to represent the club. The logo uses the central lettering from the crest, an example of which being the clubs shop sign.
Named Palchan and sporting big, winglike ears, S-Pulse's mascot supports the team and entertains fans by performing choreographed, and often acrobatic, dance routines during the build up to home games. He often performs with the help of his two younger siblings. Designed by professional cartoonist Guy Gilchrist, Palchan's name is taken from the English pal and the pul of S-Pulse. The suffix chan is an affectionate title commonly used in Japan. Sporting team number zero, Palchan goods are a consistent best seller with various merchandise available. S-Pulse also have a cheer leading team named Orange Wave. The team perform routines prior to kick off and half time as well as making various appearances at S-Pulse themed events in and around Shizuoka.
In and around the team's native Shizuoka City there are four club shops, each known as S-Pulse Dream House. These serve as both club merchadise stores and match ticket offices and can be found in Shizuoka, Shimizu, Fujieda and Sunto. he Shimizu Dream House also includes a projection screen and viewing area for the broadcasting of away games, and can be found on the appropriately named S-Pulse Street. This is a road running into the city from the port area of Shimizu and is lined with various statues, monuments and art works related to and inspired by the city's strong association with football. This includes foot and hand prints cast into metal of former notable players. In April 2008 a new Dream House opened in the newly refurbished Parche shopping centre, part of Shizuoka Station and replaces a previous smaller S-Pulse shop.
In addition, the S-Pulse Dream Plaza, a shopping and entertainment complex in Shimizu, houses another club shop and football museum. From Shimizu Port, the S-Pulse Dream Ferry service runs daily to Izu. The team also also lends it's name to a series of futsal courts named, perhaps predictably, S-Pulse Dream Fields.
S-Pulse operate Youth and Junior Youth teams as part of their academy to nurture local talent. Of the current first team, Kohei Hiramatsu, Kota Sugiyama and Daisuke Ichikawa are examples of players who have worked their way through the ranks.