The Future of the Japanese National Team Supported by the New Trend of Players Transferring Overseas without Going through the J-League | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Future of the Japanese National Team Supported by the New Trend of Players Transferring Overseas without Going through the J-League

Thinking about the overseas transfer of Japanese players (3)

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Yuto Nagatomo, a Japanese sideback for more than 10 years

In the previous article, “Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda Paved the Way for ‘Overseas Moves Even for Non-Competitive Players'”, we introduced how Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Honda, and others challenged overseas before becoming established members of the Japanese national team, and were followed by players of their generation.

In the 1960s, the number of Japanese players moving overseas increased dramatically, and the starting lineup for the World Cup Round of 16 match against Belgium in Rostov in Russia in 2006, with the exception of Gen Masako (30, Kashima), was all from European teams. This trend accelerated after the inauguration of Moriyasu Japan in August 2006.

The first time in history that all the starters were from overseas was in the final of the 2007 Asian Cup (UAE) against Qatar (Abu Dhabi), with goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda (34, Shimizu=Portimonense at the time), defender Hiroki Sakai (33, Urawa=Marseille at the time), Takehiro Tomiyasu (25, Arsenal=Sint-Troiden at the time), Yoshihiro Yoshida (25, Arsenal=Sint-Troiden at the time), and Shunichi Gonda (34, Shimizu=Portimonense at the time). Sint-Troyden), Maya Yoshida (35, LA Galaxy=Southampton), Yuto Nagatomo (37, FC Tokyo=Galatasaray), Tsukasa Shiotani (35, Hiroshima=Al Ain), Gaku Shibasaki (31, Kashima=Hetafe), right midfielder Ritsu Doan (25, Freiburg=Groningen), left midfielder Genki Haraguchi (25, Freiburg=Groningen) The lineup included left midfielder Genki Haraguchi (32, Stuttgart=Hannover at the time), top midfielder Takumi Minamino (28, Monaco=Salzburg at the time), and forward Yuya Osako (33, Kobe=Bremen at the time).

It is no exaggeration to say that a mood spread among the players at that time that “only those from overseas could make the national team.

The Japan Football Association also took action. In October 2008, after the COVID-19 crisis, a European office was established in Düsseldorf, Germany. Director Naoki Tsumura, 45, who had supported the national team since 2007, when Ivica Osim was in charge, was assigned to the office, and the association began to build a pipeline with Japanese clubs in earnest. Mr. Tsumura said, “Just before the World Cup in Russia, Mr. Nishino was asked to help the national team.

Until Akira Nishino (68, current commentator) became coach just before the World Cup in Russia, there had been a succession of foreign coaches, so it was enough to use their contacts and connections to conduct inspections and visit clubs. However, after Mr. Moriyasu, a Japanese national, became manager, we had to establish a base in Europe in order for our activities to proceed smoothly. So we started working toward opening an office in April 2008, but due to the spread of corona infection, we had to delay the start of operations by half a year.

With a European office, not only the German team, but also players from neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands can consult with us if they have any problems, and it is also easier to receive support in case of injury or illness. When Itakura Koh (26, Borussia MG) was injured just before the World Cup in Qatar in 2010, he visited here every day, which must have been a reassuring factor for his early return.

In addition, from ’22 to ’23, the club became a “temple” for players like Chase Henry (19, Stuttgart II) and Shio Fukuda (19, Borussia MG II) who moved to Europe in their teens, and it can be seen as one of the factors that accelerated the transfer of Japanese players to Europe. This is one of the factors that have accelerated the transfer of Japanese players to Europe.

Shortly before that, in November ’17, the Japanese company acquired Sint-Troiden, a Belgian first division team. It was also significant to establish Sint-Troiden as a gateway for Japanese players. In fact, Tomiyasu, Wataru Endo (30, Liverpool), and Daichi Kamata (27, Lazio) have made great strides at the club and established themselves in their current positions.

The next generation of players, such as current national team members Keito Nakamura (23, Stade Reims) and Ayaen Suzuki (21, Sint-Troiden), have also studied at the club, and it can be said that the club plays an important role in the world of Japanese soccer.

Keito Nakamura gaining experience at Stade Lance

A close relative of Sint-Troiden is Celtic of the Scottish Premier League.’ After coach Ange Postecoglou (58, now at Tottenham), who led Yokohama F. Marinos to the J1 championship in 2007, arrived at the club in the summer of 2009, the club acquired a number of promising Japanese players, including Kyogo Furuhashi (28), Daishige Maeda (26), and Reo Hatate (26). They have all shown great growth. In particular, Dairiku Maeda, who earned a place in the starting lineup for the three games against Germany, Spain, and Croatia at the 2010 World Cup in Qatar, has made a tremendous leap forward.

With the departure of coach Postecoglou this summer, there were concerns about the treatment of Japanese players, but so far the above three have continued to make their presence felt. In addition, Tomoki Iwata (26) is becoming an important asset. As more European clubs are led by coaches who highly value the abilities of Japanese players, there will be more cases where they will take steps to acquire players.

The reputation of Japanese players has increased to such an extent that it cannot be compared to the situation more than 20 years ago, when Hidetoshi Nakata (46) moved to Perugia and Shinji Ono (44, Sapporo) to Feyenoord. This is an undeniable fact, and it has become a tailwind for players who wish to challenge overseas.

In fact, it has become commonplace for players to say, “I want to go overseas. Not only national team players and players with J1 experience, but also players in the lower leagues such as J2 and J3 are now realizing their dream of moving overseas. The number of destinations is not limited to the five major European leagues, but has increased to the second divisions in England, Germany, and Spain, as well as to the second group in Europe, including Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and Denmark.

A good example is Kanji Okunuki (24, Nuremberg), who was called up to the Japan national team series in October. A product of Omiya Ardija’s academy, he played five seasons in J2 before moving to Polish first division side Gournik Zabrze in the summer of 2010. After only one year, he made the step up to the second division of the German Bundesliga.

I want to play unashamedly as a player from J2,” he said enthusiastically.

With the advancement of technology, we are now in a situation where we can watch match videos from all over the world, and there are systems that allow us to check information on players as quickly as possible, so that nowadays the barriers between borders and continents are disappearing. This means that opportunities are open to everyone. The number of agents supporting players is increasing and their networks are expanding, and players such as Chase Henry and Shi-Oh Fukuda are beginning to be bought out of the blue even as high school students.

There are even players like Kubo Takefusa (22, Real Sociedad), who spent his youth in the FC Barcelona organization, was educated there, and has excellent Spanish language skills. It is no exaggeration to say that Japanese soccer has fully entered the global soccer market.

Kubo Takefusa is also active in the European CL this season.

J clubs have also accepted this trend and are becoming more conscious of the need to earn money by selling players overseas. 20 or so years ago, they would have said, “We will bring up our best players and win titles. However, now it is no longer possible to pursue only the success of the club . Many J clubs are struggling with the difficult problem of “player exodus,” but it is certain that the more players that go out to the world, the higher the level of Japanese soccer will rise. While acknowledging this, it is important to focus on the wisdom of strengthening player development and establishing an attractive J-League.

Looking at the 26 members of Japan’s national team for the 2010 World Cup in Qatar, 19 were from overseas and seven were from Japan, but three years from now, at the 2014 World Cup in North and Central America, all members may be from overseas. Hajime Moriyasu, 55, emphasizes that “all of the overseas players originally played in the J-League,” and he continues to visit the J-League every week, but more and more players will play in the J-League for several years or go to Europe without going through the J-League. This will make it more difficult to conduct national team activities in Japan. In the near future, it may become the norm for Japan’s national team to train in Europe.

We will continue to carefully watch the future of Japanese players in the near future.

  • Interview and text by Etsuko Motokawa Etsuko Motokawa PHOTO Afro

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