Ritsu Doan’s true feelings about his equalizer against Germany at the World Cup
Japan’s national soccer team, making its seventh consecutive appearance at the World Cup, pulled off a historic 2-1 upset victory over Germany, the past four-time champions of the tournament. Ritsu Doan, who scored the equalizer in the second half of the game, revealed a surprisingly sensitive side to him in a past interview conducted by this magazine, which is hard to imagine from his usual bullish comments.
With a goal trailing 20 minutes into the second half, Doan quickly swung in a ball that rolled to his feet and smashed through the thick wall of German goalkeeper Neuer, who is regarded as one of the best in the world. For a man who believed he could find the net with his feet, it didn’t matter that he had only been on the pitch for four minutes before scoring.
I went in with the feeling that I was going to score, and I knew I was the only one who could do it, so I went on the pitch with a strong …… feeling. （I’m not going to be happy or sad (about this victory), I’m going to fight as one team. I am standing on the pitch with the feeling that I want to make Japanese soccer more exciting. I hope everyone will look forward to it.
Doan, an attacker who bears the future of Japan, carried the number 10 ace number at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, and is especially hungry and hungry when it comes to soccer, and his words are bold and straightforward. Many people may have the impression that Doan is “fearless,” but in a previous interview with this magazine, he revealed a surprisingly sensitive side to him.
He said, “I think more than other people, and I worry about small things. No one believes me when I say that I am sensitive (……), but lately (laughs). When I go to bed, I can’t sleep if the red light on the TV’s main power switch is on. In a hotel, I can’t sleep unless the light is properly hidden. That also bothers me.
He is quite sensitive to say that he can’t sleep because he is concerned about the main power light. It seems that he is both bold and sensitive, or at the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Sometimes I think, “Let’s just go without thinking and dive in,” and sometimes I overthink things. That’s extreme, yes. But the only thing I think about is soccer. I sometimes think about how bad I was yesterday, and images of that game appear in my mind, or I get excited when I think about it, and of course there are times when I am so bad I can’t sleep. But maybe it’s not just me. I think athletes are more sensitive than others, just because they may or may not speak up.
Doan, who began his professional career with G Osaka in 2015, moved to Groningen in the Dutch first division in 2017. This year marks five years in Europe. If he were in Japan, he might be able to see and talk with his family and friends and cover up his moping, but that is not the case overseas. Being in an environment where I can concentrate on soccer, I have more time to think about this and that. But at the same time, I have learned how to deal with it.
I think it’s better not to think too much, because it can be stressful. I just have to accept that this is my personality. I can’t erase this personality, so I try to understand my tendency to overthink, and when I feel like I’m overthinking, I think about it, deal with it, and move on.
Living alone in the COVID-19 crisis, the biggest problem was probably the food. In Germany, the government has imposed a lockdown from November 2020 to May 2021, and restaurants are prohibited from operating except for delivery or take-out. Athletes’ meals are different from those of the general public. They can’t just grab a meal at McDonald’s. Bielefeld, Germany, where I played from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2009, is a small town in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, and there are not many good restaurants.
He was not extremely nervous about the situation, but he was concerned that Japan’s national team coach, Hajime Moriyasu, was concerned that Ritsu was having trouble eating. The Japan Football Association has actually extended a helping hand.
I am very grateful for that support. I really appreciated it, especially since I couldn’t eat out because of the COVID-19 crisis.
In some cases, overseas members of the association hire a personal housekeeper and give him a key to the house so that he can clean, wash, and prepare meals for them while they are away on tours or other occasions, but Doan was sensitive about this.
I don’t like that. I think, ‘Don’t come into my house without permission. I don’t like that. Because it’s my house.
However, such subtlety was evident in the way he looked at his teammates, with whom he had fought together as teammates. Even though Doan has been doing well with his own team, he has been running on empty with Japan’s national team, and in March of this year, when the team earned a ticket to the World Cup in the final Asian qualifying round against Australia, Doan was left out of the Japan squad. After the Germany game, Doan made the following comment.
After the game against Germany, Doan made the following comment: “When I was not selected in March, I felt gratitude that my friends decided to participate in the World Cup, and even so, some of them were not selected this time. There was no feeling of being happy about personal things when I was on the pitch” (“Gekisaka”).
In Doan’s mind, he may be thinking of midfielder Genki Haraguchi, who played for Australia in March but was left out of the World Cup squad, and defender Yuta Nakayama, who was selected for the World Cup squad but had to cry over an injury. The number eight player who can be strong at the last minute and say “I will decide” while showing consideration for his fellow players may continue to be active on the pitch during the World Cup.