RMC Originals - M League Lineup
Details about M League can be found HERE.
On August 7th (Japan Time), the anticipated draft night was held at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa in Tokyo. This is also the same hotel where they have the Japanese Professional Baseball League's draft as well, so the atmosphere made the draft night even more "authentic".
There are 2000+ professional Mahjong players in Japan. In order to qualify for this draft, all players must be part of one of the 5 major professional Mahjong organizations. Here are the 5 organizations:
Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyokai
We will be covering each organization in future articles and/or videos.
Out of the 2000+ players, only 21 were chosen on draft night as the first "M Leaguers" to participate in this new professional league, which starts on October 1st. This professional league is the first attempt to give the players a salary or paycheck by playing the game that they continue to perfect. This is a new movement, started by CyberAgent president Susumu Fujita, who is also a Mahjong enthusiast.
As the draft night started, players from all organizations sat in their seats, hoping to get their names called upon by one of the following 7 teams:
Akasaka Drivens (Hakuhodo DY media partners)
EX Furinkazan (TV Asahi)
Konami Mahjong Fight Club (KONAMI)
Shibuya Abemas (CyberAgent)
SegaSammy Phoenix (SegaSammy)
TEAM RAIDEN (Dentsu)
U-NEXT Pirates (U-Next)
The format of the draft selection was done by the teams selecting their first round picks. If any of the teams pick the same player in this round, the overlapping teams will be in a raffle to see who gets to select that player. The teams that didn't win the raffle will have to select another player for this first round. Again, if the teams pick the same player here as well, they will have to be in another raffle, and continue this until the teams do not overlap in their selections in the round. Same will go for the second and third rounds.
After the main MC explained the process of the draft, and Fujita Chairman gave his opening speech, the draft picks start!
An email was sent to each teams' computers that they had at their tables. As each team enters their first round picks, a last minute discussion was done. Once the teams made their picks, their table lamp with the team logo lit up, showing everyone in the venue that a decision was made. After several minutes of tense waiting, 3 professional players were called.
1st Round Picks
Akasaka Drivens - Ken Sonoda (Saikouisen)
EX Furinkazan - Aki Nikaido (JPML)
Konami Mahjong Fight Club - Hisato Sasaki (JPML)
Shibuya Abemas - Takaharu Ooi (RMU)
SegaSammy Phoenix - Yuumi Uotani (JPML)
TEAM RAIDEN - Masato Hagiwara (JPML)
U-NEXT Pirates - Go Kobayashi (Maujong Union)
It was amazing to see that none of the team picks overlapped. Many of the first round picks were considered favorites, as they were known for their achievements throughout their careers. Some of the players who got their names called had tears in their eyes out of happiness or even relief. These players now have the right to discuss their contracts with each of their teams.
Representatives of each team came forward and explained how they felt after being able to select their picks without having to get them by raffle.
Immediately afterwards, the second round picks were discussed among the teams and after another set of minutes, the players were announced.
2nd Round Picks
Akasaka Drivens - Jun Murakami (Saikouisen)
EX Furinkazan - Kazunori Takizawa (JPML)
Konami Mahjong Fight Club - Mari Takamiya (JPML)
Shibuya Abemas - Sho Shiratori (JPML)
SegaSammy Phoenix - Seiichi Kondo (Saikouisen)
TEAM RAIDEN - Naoki Setokuma (JPML)
U-NEXT Pirates - Koushin Asakura aka ASAPIN (Saikouisen)
No overlapping occurred in this round as well, but unlike the end of the first round, the third round picks started immediately afterwards, without any comments given by the team representatives.
3rd Round Picks
Akasaka Drivens - Taro Suzuki (Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyokai)
EX Furinkazan - Kenji Katsumata (JPML)
Konami Mahjong Fight Club - Yudai Maehara (JPML)
Shibuya Abemas - Yoshihiro Matsumoto (Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyokai)
SegaSammy Phoenix - Sayaka Kayamori (Saikouisen)
TEAM RAIDEN - Saki Kurosawa (JPML)
U-NEXT Pirates - Nobuhiro Ishibashi (Saikouisen)
The third and final round finally had an overlap, as Taro Suzuki was selected by three teams. Akasaka Drivens was able to win the raffle, but Shibuya Abemas and U-NEXT Pirates had to go to their next selections.
The order for these three teams to pick again was done by another raffle to determine who gets to pick first. The order was U-NEXT Pirates, followed by Shibuya Abemas and Akasaka Drivens. So the teams had a 1/3 chance of being able to select Taro. At the end, Akasaka Drivens took Taro, as the representative pumped his fists in the air as soon as he knew he drew the winning raffle. The representative was interviewed right after, and explained how relieved he was, even though he didn't have any choice but to draw the last raffle due to him being the third team to draw from the raffle.
At the end of the night, the final line up for the 7 teams are below:
Ken Sonoda (Saikouisen)
Jun Murakami (Saikouisen)
Taro Suzuki (Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyokai)
Aki Nikaido (JPML)
Kazunori Takizawa (JPML)
Kenji Katsumata (JPML)
Konami Mahjong Fight Club
Hisato Sasaki (JPML)
Mari Takamiya (JPML)
Yudai Maehara (JPML)
Takaharu Ooi (RMU)
Sho Shiratori (JPML)
Yoshihiro Matsumoto (Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyokai)
Yuumi Uotani (JPML)
Seiichi Kondo (Saikouisen)
Sayaka Kayamori (Saikouisen)
Masato Hagiwara (JPML)
Naoki Setokuma (JPML)
Saki Kurosawa (JPML)
Go Kobayashi (Maujong Union)
Koushin Asakura aka ASAPIN (Saikouisen)
Nobuhiro Ishibashi (Saikouisen)
As the draft night ends, players congratulated the selected players as they gathered for a group photo to end the night.
*Images of the event were not used as we are currently getting permission from the respected owners. Once we get approval for usage, we will update this page*