Aomori Yamada’s Kusei Matsuki, the “Hidetoshi Nakata of Japan,” has the air of a great man and the scent of the Showa era | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Aomori Yamada’s Kusei Matsuki, the “Hidetoshi Nakata of Japan,” has the air of a great man and the scent of the Showa era

The story of the "best captain" who will participate in the national high school soccer final today, August 10

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Kusei Matsuki also scored a goal in the semifinal match against Takagawa Gakuen (Photo: Afro)

The National High School Soccer Championship is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The first team to be mentioned as a potential winner of the tournament is Aomori Yamada High School, whose results in the past three tournaments have been “winner, runner-up, and runner-up. They overcame the pressure of being expected to win this year’s tournament, and have advanced to the final on the 10th.

In the strongest team that always aspires to win, there is a man who is trusted by coach Takeshi Kuroda as “the best captain. Kuryu Matsuki, who is four years older than the rest of the team, has been selected for the U-22 national team and is set to join FC Tokyo in the J-League next season. He is a candidate to become a superstar of the Reiwa era, but he also has a strange “Showa era” flavor to him.

He is a rare type of player in this day and age.

This is a rare type of player in this day and age,” the coach has said many times since Matsuki was still a first-year player. In this day and age, when many coaches say that the number of quiet kids is increasing, Matsuki possesses the strength of will and ego, as well as the resilience to stand up for what he thinks is right without fear of friction.

He has a strong spirit and takes the initiative in everything he does. When he speaks out, he does so with dignity. In recent years, this type of player has been hard to find. He’s not a soccer player, but a person, and he’s a little different. I’ve always felt that he was going to be a big deal.” (Coach Kuroda)

In fact, when I asked Coach Kuroda, who had used Matsuki as a regular player since he was a first-year player, why, he replied, “It’s good that he’s so impudent. But he was not intimidated, and continued to play with an air of authority, to the extent that he was described as “impudent.

And it wasn’t just his play. He once came across a senior player who was slacking off on defense, and the senior player admitted that he was wrong and backed down. It is natural that he can say this because of his ability, but it is also because he is more serious than anyone else, and does not cut corners in training or in games, that his behavior is recognized (or else it would never be tolerated). His awareness of soccer is really high. It’s a great inspiration for me.

He is not afraid to speak his mind, even to his seniors and coaches. He is a man who hates to lose and maintains a strong desire to grow. His style of play reminds me of Hidetoshi Nakata, who once carried Japanese soccer on his shoulders, although he is not exactly like him.

Of course, he is not the easiest type of player for a coach to handle. He is not the type of player that is easy for coaches to handle, of course, but he is a favorite at Aomori Yamada, which is basically a martial arts school. Coach Kuroda has always said, “It’s tougher to organize, but the team is stronger when players with human power come together,” and he welcomed a player with “backbone” like Matsuki.

It’s easier for high school students to turn a blind eye to each other’s bad points and be good friends. But Matsuki is strict with others and accepts what they say. We want to be a team with that kind of atmosphere, and it’s great to have a captain who can do that.

FC Tokyo’s entrance press conference. On Matsuki’s left is Coach Kuroda of Aomori Yamada High School, and on his right is Coach Ueda of Aomori Yamada Junior High School. These are the coaches who were crucial to Matsuki’s development (Photo: Akihiko Kawabata)

This year, Aomori Yamada won the National High School Athletic Meet in the summer, and also won the Prince Takamado Cup Premier League East, which attracts the best teams, including J-League youth teams. Aomori Yamada has maintained its strength throughout the year, and at the center of that strength has undoubtedly been Matsuki, who has been uncompromising in both his own play and the performance of his team.

Aomori Yamada has often used this competitive mentality to their advantage in developing Matsuki. Coach Daiki Ueda, head of the Aomori Yamata Tanaka School, threw Matsuki into the practices of the top high school team after he “became a regular in the junior high school team in his sophomore year and started to get carried away. He went in full of confidence, but was unable to play at all, and “came back with his nose broken by the seniors,” according to coach Ueda.

Instead of losing confidence there, his fighting spirit was ignited, as the coaching staff expected. His attitude toward practice became even more intense, and he began to show great promise. This competitive spirit is the source of Matsuki’s energy and the element that has supported him as an incomparable hard worker.

He has been selected for the national team in his age group since his junior high school days, but it was mainly for his defensive strength and guts that he was evaluated. When he was called up to the national team, he often played as a left back, and was rarely used in the center of midfield, his natural position. However, it is clear that he had the strength to use those evaluations and the experience of playing with players who were rated higher than him as energy to grow.

For a player with such a competitive spirit, finishing as runner-up in the high school soccer championship for the second year in a row was a humiliation. He came into this tournament vowing to “win this tournament,” and his condition is steadily improving as he prepares for the final, which will be his return match. In the semifinals, Matsuki scored a super goal to give his team a 6-0 victory over Takagawa Gakuen.

However, they won the semifinals in the same way they did in the previous tournament. Therefore, there is no sign of pride.

We haven’t accomplished anything in the championship yet,” Matsuki said.

Matsuki is not the type to excite people with his so-called big mouth. He is not the type to excite people with his so-called big mouth. However, he has confidence in every word he says, and his play is imbued with soul. He is the culmination of his six years at Aomori Yamada, and is determined to win his 100th high school championship.

Matsuki in his first year of high school. His innocence still remains.
Matsuki as a freshman. When he has the ball, he suddenly has the air of a senior player.
Matsuki participates in the U-22 Japan national team training camp (photo: Akihiko Kawabata)
  • Reporting and writing Akihiko Kawabata

    Born in 1979, Kawabata began his career as a journalist in 2002, focusing on the developmental age group. In addition to writing for El Gorasso, Soccer King, Footballista, Soccer Magazine, Gekisaka, Gizmodo, and other media, he also works as a freelance editor. His most recent book is "The 2050 World Cup Championship Plan" (Sol Media).

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