Three years ago, when Iniesta (37) moved to Vissel Kobe, the head of Real Madrid’s lower division said, “The chemistry between Iniesta and Vissel Kobe has made him explosive.
“He said, “The chemical reaction with Iniesta may lead to the explosive growth of Japanese players.
This is exactly what happened to Kyogo Furuhashi, 26, a member of the prestigious Scottish club Celtic FG. He moved from Kobe this summer and has exploded with seven goals in nine games (as of September 1).
He has been called the new ace of the Japanese national team, but he has not always been a well-known player in Japan. In his school days, he was a complete unknown, no doubt about it. Takashi Tatsuta, 54, the president of Aspegas FC, a soccer club in Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture, remembers Furuhashi’s junior high school days vividly.
“The first day he came to practice, he cried out, ‘I want to go home. I was worried that he wouldn’t be okay, but I soon realized that he had something strong at his core. When I was in junior high school, I was not selected for the prefectural team, but for the regional team at best. One minute he would make a spectacular play, and the next he would make an ordinary mistake (laughs). (laughs) Even back then, you could sense the scale of his success. He was one of the best swimmers in the prefecture, and his core strength and instantaneous speed were remarkable.
Even when Furuhashi made many mistakes, Tatsuta stubbornly continued to use him in FW.
“Tatsuta stubbornly continued to use Furuhashi in FW even though he made many mistakes. I didn’t want him to be too small, so I kept telling him, ‘You have to break through in front of the goal by yourself. He is a serious and dedicated person, so he stuck to his word.
Although he was a shy and reserved boy, he had a fighting spirit inside. In the final of a national futsal tournament in junior high school, Furuhashi injured his toe and was substituted midway through the game. The team was then subjected to an onslaught by their opponents. Despite being outnumbered, Furuhashi volunteered to play, saying, “I want to win, so I will.
In the end, my leg was broken,” he said. Even so, when the team was catching up, I taped up and prepared to compete. As a result, we won the championship. From that time on, I was extremely competitive.
When he entered high school, he was not offered a special scholarship. However, Tomoaki Uchino, 42, the coach of Osaka’s prestigious Kokoku High School, also saw great potential in Furuhashi.
“He wasn’t very skilled, but he had a great sense of getting behind the defenders and was quick with his first few steps. I was genuinely surprised because this sense is the most lacking in Japanese players and cannot be taught. I thought he would be an interesting player if he turned into one.
He had explosive power but lacked stability, and was the fifth-best player in the team as a front-line player. He did not make it to the national stage during his high school years and was not offered a job as a professional.
After his retirement game, Furuhashi said, “I’ll pay back this regret by becoming a professional. After his retirement game, he said, ‘I’ll repay this regret by becoming a professional.’ (laughs) I wondered what he was talking about when he hadn’t even decided to become a professional, but that kind of naturalness is one of his strengths.
After graduating from Chuo University, he joined the J2 club FC Gifu in 2005. In 2006, he moved to Kobe. This season, he has scored 15 goals in 21 games in the J-League, and has also made a splash at Celtic, to whom he moved midway through the season. His mentor said that Furuhashi’s awakening was largely due to his encounter with Iniesta.
“His style of play has never changed. Iniesta was the only one who was able to match his natural timing of getting out from the back. In such a situation, only Iniesta was able to bring out the best of his potential. I think his goal-scoring and confidence-building in Kobe led to his explosive growth.
Toruogu Furuhashi is a man whose “potential” has blossomed. He is a man who has blossomed into a player with “potential,” and is sure to score goals on a large scale for the national team.
From “FRIDAY” September 17, 2021 issue
Reporting and writing： Shimei Kurita Photo： PA Images/Afro AP/Afro Courtesy of Kougoku High School