11 years of tears that “should have dried up” for Hikaru Naemoto, the “Masami Nagasawa of the soccer world” who missed two World Cups and the Olympics. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

11 years of tears that “should have dried up” for Hikaru Naemoto, the “Masami Nagasawa of the soccer world” who missed two World Cups and the Olympics.

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Hikaru Naomoto during a training camp in Japan, hoping to avenge 11 years of not being on the world’s top stage (Photo: AFLO)

The Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament began on April 20. Of the 23 members of Japan’s women’s national team (a.k.a. Nadeshiko Japan), only the captain, Saki Kumagai, knows of the victory in Germany 12 years ago, while six were born after 2000, indicating that the team is undergoing a generational change and rejuvenation, with a focus on the future under coach Futoshi Ikeda. The standout player in this group is Hikaru Naumoto, who was selected for Japan’s World Cup squad for the first time at the age of 29.

At the U-20 World Cup in Japan in 2012, she attracted a great deal of attention, and there were high expectations for her to be the future of Japan, both in terms of popularity and ability. The press conference held in Urawa in June was a memorable one.

<I’ve never been to a big tournament as Nadeshiko Japan, but I’ve been ……

I was choked with tears as I began to speak.

<I’m sorry, I’ve already dried up my tears.

She was holding her eyes repeatedly, and Hana Takahashi, who was sitting next to her, gently supported her shoulder. The way she did so again brought tears to the eyes of those watching.

<I’ve been training for a long time with the idea of competing on the world stage,” she said, wiping away tears.

After wiping away her tears, she turned to the front and reiterated her determination.

<I want to put all of my heart and soul into this tournament.

The press conference was held with the help of his teammates, who are both heading to the World Cup.

Looking back, four years ago in 2007, Naomoto was playing in Germany when he was not selected for the squad for France. However, he joined Freiburg, a first division club in Germany, looking for an opportunity to grow, but he was not satisfied with his time there.

When the author visited Freiburg to cover the tournament, he once encountered Futoshi Ikeda, who was coaching under Asako Takakura at the time, on an inspection tour. This means that he was still on the winning team at that time, but he was not a member of the final team. In an interview conducted immediately after he was not selected, Naomoto was very determined.

I was prepared for both (being eliminated),” he said. Of course, I was prepared for when I was selected. I’m in great shape now, and I’m confident that I can make it if I’m selected, but I knew there was a chance I might not make it.

So I don’t feel like I’m at rock bottom.

He also said, “So I don’t feel like I’m at rock bottom. He seemed to have already switched to the next stage.

Hikaru Naumoto weeping at the member selection press conference on June 14 (photo taken from “URAWA REDS LADIES OFFICIAL.TV”)

Naomoto herself must have had mixed feelings: “Considering the flow in team building up to the main event, I was not selected, but if they could pinpoint the moment, there would be a possibility.

Shortly after, he returned to Urawa Reds. At this point, his target was the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for 2008. However, things did not work out so easily, and as a result, he did not make it to the main Olympic Games in 2009. Masatsugu Yoshizaki, who works as an exclusive trainer for Hikaru Naemoto and Kozue Ando, says, “He takes care of them on a daily basis. He has been watching them closely as he takes care of them on a daily basis,” said Masatsugu Yoshizaki, the personal trainer of Hikaru Naoe and Kozue Ando.

My impression is that they have a great desire to improve their soccer skills, because they have been eliminated from the national team many times,” said Yoshizaki. When he came back from Freiburg, I think he said it was for the national team, but it was simply because his performance did not improve and he did not get any results. But this time, he played in the WE League and was selected for the national team, which only proves that his performance has improved.

After returning to Urawa Reds, he was not immediately given the opportunity to start every game. Under then manager Eiji Mori, he often started the second half of games. However, Naomoto mentally persevered here. Yoshizaki said, “It is true that she is a good player.

I thought she was capable of playing in the first team,” said Yoshizaki. But the coach told her that if she was only given the opportunity to play from the 60th minute, she should become a player who could produce results in the 30 minutes she was given, and that was it. That’s all there is to it. Well, I thought there was a lot of stress, but I was able to clear it up, so I was able to get results, and here we are.”

In the final friendly match against Panama on March 14, Naomoto started in the 70th minute. He played only 20 minutes, but although he did not score, there was a close call when his free kick from the left side hit the left post. It was a scene that one can imagine how he would be used in the real game.

If it was in 2012 when she first became known to the Japanese public, it has been 11 years since then, and she has steadily and steadily overcome many obstacles. What kind of play will she show us on the world stage that she has finally reached?

  • Interview and text Miko Ryokai

    Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1975. Started covering soccer in 2001, and became a writer in 2003 when she covered the World Youth Cup (now the U-20 World Cup) in the UAE. Currently resides in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he has lived since March 11, 2011.

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