The WE League has ambitions to become a platform in the Asia/Pacific region for female footballers across the world. After winning the 2011 World Cup, the interest in the Japan Women's National Team and Women's domestic league did show signs of promise, however in subsequent years it has shown a decline in interest and in order to compete with countries high up the FIFA World Rankings, the league has set out objectives in revive football in the country and inspire the next generations.
Alot has been spoken about breaking barriers in womens football, in terms of access to the game, playing conditions, training facilities, professional contracts and dismantling gender stereotypes which are unfortunately still prevelant in Japan, as well as the rest of the world.
One of the ways WE League wants to break barriers and improve the quality of football in the country, is by bringing a plethora of foreign talent. Whether they are upcoming talents or international stars, the league feels that the experience of these players will help shape and change the womens game. Whilst some may wish to keep Japanese football to the Japanese, it is hard to argue what foreign export can do for football leagues. Be it what they bring to the pitch or the following they receive from previous clubs, fans or their respecitve countries. WE League wants to emulate a similar model and structure as their male counterparts in J.League, which has seen a huge increase in foreign players joining the league and subsequently improved the game in terms of quality, but also interest in the league from fans and international fans alike.
Both the Japan Football Association (JFA) and WE League have pledged to support with importing foreign players into the league. With the JFA providing financial aid around Southeast Asian players (Similar to the ASEAN quota in mens football), whereas the WE League is providing financial aid to draft in players from countries which are ranked higher than Japan in the FIFA world rankings.
Since bringing in numerous foreign players, there has already been an increase in the amount of followers on various social media platforms in terms of the WE Leagues official pages and channels, as well as the clubs pages and channels.
Whilst it is still early days into its inaugural season, WE League has promise to spark change in Japan and the way womens football is viewed. The implentation of fully paid professional contarcts is a huge step forward in the right direction to improving the standard of the game and allowing players to be able to focus solely on their playing careers. The introduction of foreign players can also serve to be a huge benefit to the league and I for one am excited to see the players in action and what they can contribute. Should foreign players be successful in the league, it only begins to open the door to more players being interested in a move to the league and hopefully in many years to come, it may be a league which rivals that of womens football leagues across the world such as FAWSL, NWSL and W.League. But for now, let us enjoy it as it is and support the league in any way we can.
Cindy Koenig - Germany - Stella Kanagawa - 28
Cindy is a German forward who joined Stella Kanagawa this season from Sporting Club de Braga. Cindy has spent time most of her time playing in the German football divisions with SC Sparta Bremerhaven, Geestemünder SC and SV Werder Bremen
Sunday Lopez - Nigeria - Stella Kanagawa - 27
Sunday is a Nigerian forward who joins Stella Kanagawa this season from F.C. Nordsjaelland. She is player who has spent alot of her career playing with various teams across the world including, Rivers Angels, FC Minsk, Icheon Daekyo WFC, Guangdong Meizhou Huijun Women and F.C. Kiryat Gat. She currently plays for the Nigerian national team
Alex Chidiac - Australia - JEF United - 22
Alex is an Australian midfielder who joined JEF United this season from Melbourne City. She has previously played for Atletico Madrid and Adelaide United. She has represented that Australian National Team since 2015, in which has 1 goals in 17 appearances.
Grace Cutler - USA - Omiya Ardija Ventus - 24
Grace is an American forward who joins Omiya this season from NJ/NY Gotham FC in NWSL in the US. She has also played for West Virginia Great Mountaineers, Washington Spirit and US Sassuolo Feminile
Rosnani Azman - Singapore - INAC Kobe - 24
Rosnani is a Singaporean defender who joined Kobe this year from SWQ Thunder in Australia. During her time in Australia, she made 30 appearances for the Thunder whilst also herding cows, picking fruit and working at a motel just so she could stay in the country to play football, earn money and keep her holiday visa. She currently represents the Singapore National Team.
Cheng Ssu-Yu - Taiwan - JEF United - 32
Cheng is Taiwanese goalkeeper that joined JEF United this year from Nadeshiko Division 2 side, Okayama Yunogo Belle. Prior to that she was playing in the top flight of Taiwanese football with Taichung Blue Whale. She also currently represents the Taiwan National team.
Sarina Bolden - Phillippines - Elfen Saitama - 25
Sarina is a American-born filipino who joins Elfen Saitama this season as a midfielder from San Francisco Nighthawks in the WPSL in the US. She has also played for Sandvikens IF in Sweden and Xinbei Hangyuan in Taiwan. Whilst she did represent the United States at U-23 level, she has represented the Philippines National Team since 2018.
Quinley Quezada - Philippines - JEF United - 24
Quinley is an American-born filipino forward that joined JEF United this season from Future FC in the UPSL in the US. Prior to that she was with Legends FC in the WPSL and Xinbei Hangyuan in the Taiwan League. She is a national team player for the Philippines senior side, scoring 9 times in 18 apps
Lee Hyo-kyeong - Korea - Albirex Niigata - 24
Lee is a Korean defender who joined Albirex Niigata back in 2018. In that time she has played 34 times and received a call up to the South Korea National team in 2019. She has also had previous caps for the South Korea U20 side, where she appeared in the U20 World Cup in 2016 and subsequent friendlies.
Hwang Ah-hyeon - Korea - INAC Kobe - 20
Hwang is a Korean forward who joins Kobe this year from Pohang Girls Electric in South Korea. Prior to this, she was playing football for her high school teams.