#Member associations

Developing a national football philosophy

Takeshi Ono, 25 May 2023


The Japanese FA are focusing on developing 'individuals who are team players' as part of their new national football philosophy.


  • Developing a national football philosophy based on unique culture and context 

  • The dangers of adopting a 'copy and paste' approach to developing a national football philosophy 

  •  How to communicate a national football philosophy to key stakeholders 

The approach

The Japanese FA are focusing on developing 'strong individuals who can play together as a team' as part of their new national football philosophy 'Japan's way', explains Takeshi Ono, JFA Assistant Technical Director. 

"20 years ago, we profiled our players and we found we didn't have very strong individual players," explains Ono, who is responsible for JFA youth development and coach education. "That's why we needed to play together and it was the correct approach in that the age. But now in top level football strong individual players get together. We believe that's the only way to win the World Cup."

The JFA have set a target of winning the FIFA World Cup by 2050 and Ono hopes the approach outlined in 'Japan's way' will play a significant role in helping them to achieve that aim.

"Now we have strong individual players and our weapon is that we play as a team. So that is 'Japan's way' but we need to continue to develop both: great strong individual players who can play as a team. That's our way to raise the trophy."

"The core philosophy on the pitch is called 'play vision'. So everybody has to work together, show good decision making and help each other. That should be seen in all our teams. It also includes a diversity and variety of different types of player but all facing in the same direction."

Studying best practice examples from countries of similar context 

During the development of 'Japan's way' the JFA researched best practice national football philosophy examples from around the globe with a focus on countries of similar context, says Ono. 

"Considering our geographical situation and the distance to countries in Europe and South America, strong networking is very important," explains Ono. 

"We researched many member association national philosophies such as England DNA and also Germany and France. But we felt that these countries are already at a very good standard and circumstance."

"So, next we researched member associations with a similar situation to us. We looked at the Wales FA 'Welsh way' because they had quite a similar situation to us in terms of getting to the top level of competitions."

"It's a great benefit for us to learn from a country such as Wales. Also, we learned lots from Iceland and New Zealand. They understand their position and know their strengths and weaknesses and have their own philosophy. It was great to benefit from those nations in order to create our own philosophy."

No 'copy and paste' fix when developing a national football philosophy 

As the JFA gathered national football philosophy best practice from across the globe, there was caution not to 'copy and paste' anybody else’s blueprint, explains Ono. 

"The starting point was that we needed to have our own philosophy," explains Ono, who is also a FIFA Technical Leadership expert. 

"Our country is located a big distance from many of the advanced football countries playing in Europe and South America. So, we need to have strong development plan without 'copy and paste' because we have our own culture, background and educational background. So that's why we need our own national football philosophy.

"In the modern world you can get a lot of information from all over the world, but sometimes too much information and you can lose your way. So, we wanted to put something in place so we could go in the same direction.”

For many years the ideas included in 'Japan's way' have been worked on by members of staff in the JFA technical department. However, in 2022, the JFA decided to make the national football philosophy available to the public. 

"Japan's way' was first created when I was technical director but we only used it in internally, just the technical people in the JFA. But outside, nobody knows what is the main philosophy or pillar of 'Japan's way'. Hence, Kageyama Masanaga, JFA Director of youth development, suggested that this be published and work has begun on this."explains Ono. 

"This year we published the core philosophy and at the moment it is more of a draft to show the direction of Japan's way. Next will follow the action plans and schemes that breakdown the philosophy."

"That will be done next year and will show how the youth development and coach education will be done in three and five years’ time for example. There will be action plans in each area."

Ono is quick to stress that the JFA are not 'telling' the clubs or educational establishments what to do, but are encouraging them to follow in the same direction through ‘guidelines’.

"It's not an obligation but instead guidelines," says Ono. "If we say it's an obligation, maybe people will be reluctant to do to do that. Because we have a lot of good coaches with great passion they don't want to just follow. So, we say is you can do your own style but we would like it to be in the same direction as us. That is why we call it guidelines and then maybe they want to follow."


  • Develop your national football philosophy based on the unique culture and context of your country

  • 'Copying and pasting' another country’s national football philosophy is unlikely to prove effective 

  • Ensure regular and effective communication of your national football philosophy to key internal and external stakeholders 


  • How is your country's unique culture and context reflected in your national football philosophy? 

  • How do you refresh and update your national football philosophy to ensure it is fit for purpose? 

  • What is your communication strategy for your national football philosophy? How can this be maintained or improved? 

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