Turkey, a European powerhouse in blind soccer, has approached the former Japan national team coach for the post! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Turkey, a European powerhouse in blind soccer, has approached the former Japan national team coach for the post!

If realized, Japan will become the first country in history to have a European national team coach!

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Toshishi Takada, Japan’s national coach at the Tokyo Paralympic Games last summer (Photo: Afro)

Toshishi Takada, the former coach of Japan’s blind soccer team (five-a-side soccer) played by visually impaired players at this summer’s Tokyo Paralympics, has received an offer to become coach of the Turkish national team, one of the strongest teams in Europe.

Turkey is ranked 4th in the International Blind Soccer Association (IBSA ) rankings, while Japan is ranked 12th. As with soccer played by able-bodied people, South America and Europe lead the world in blind soccer, and it is extremely unusual for a higher-ranked European country to make an offer to a lower-ranked Japanese official.

Takeshi Okada, who once led Japan’s national soccer team, was the coach of Chinese club Hangzhou Green City, and Akira Nishino was in charge of Thailand’s national team, both in Asia. Takada is believed to be open to the idea, and if he signs the contract, it will open a new door for Japanese soccer.

A senior official of the Japan Football Association said, “It’s pretty big news.

I think it’s great that he has been recognized by the world. I think it’s a wonderful thing because it’s recognized around the world, and it’s quite big news for those of us in the soccer world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s soccer played by able-bodied people or blind soccer played by visually impaired people. I believe that the offer was made because of the wonderful games played at the Paralympics last summer. (I hope the whole soccer world can support him (for his appointment).

Many players have gone to Europe, but no one has gone as a leader yet. Before that, we need to get more coaches in Asia, and there are examples such as (former Japan national team coach) Takeshi Okada going to China and (Akira) Nishino, who took charge of the 2018 World Cup, going to the Thai national team.

I had imagined that Europe would call on a coach who had proven himself in Asia, so I was surprised in that sense as well.

A senior official of the Japan Football Association was frankly delighted with the offer that came to Takada from the Turkish national team.

Takada became the goalkeeping coach of Japan’s national blind soccer team in 2013, and became the team’s coach in 2016, declaring that he wanted to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, the team’s first appearance at the games. In order to turn the team, which had never qualified for the Paralympic Games since the 2004 Athens Olympics, into a “winning” team, he continued to pursue winning while drastically changing the team’s style from a defensive one to a team that could score goals.

When he took over, the only players who could score goals were captain Rei Kawamura and Tomonari Kuroda. The main focus of the team was to defend in front of their own goal and rely on the individual skills of the two players to win the ball, but he also taught defensive-minded players such as Akihito Tanaka and Roberto Izumi Sasaki to handle the ball with tenacity.

The players were so inexperienced at handling the ball that they were said to make others nervous when they held the ball. Tanaka and Sasaki transformed themselves into players who could score goals whenever they saw an opportunity. At the same time, he introduced a system called “One Tap Sports” to visualize players’ physical condition as data, which had been used by the Japanese national rugby team since the 2015 World Cup. As the number of days for the national team training camp was limited, the team worked around the clock to monitor the physical condition of the players.

In the Paralympic Games, the team failed to win a medal and finished in 5th place, but they won their first Paralympic victory with a win over France in the preliminary round. In addition, they beat Spain, the European champion and the third ranked team in the world, 1-0 in the fifth place match. Since the Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA) did not ask him to continue, he resigned at the end of September. He was busy with his day job of IT service management, system operation and management of athletes and others.

The Turkish national team at the 2019 World Grand Prix in Japan (white uniforms, photo by Kazutoshi Uchida)

Turkey, on the other hand, has been competing in two consecutive Paralympic Games since 2012, and in the World Championships since 2014, and has been steadily gaining strength in recent years. There are professional blind soccer players contracted in Turkey, and the country is so active that there are overseas players in the domestic league. However, at the 2020 European Championships, where their participation in the Tokyo Olympics was at stake, they fell short of Spain and France and failed to qualify for their third consecutive Para competition. Even though the individual skills of the players had been polished, there were still issues that prevented them from developing their organizational skills.

The similarities between Hasebe and Takada, who are active in Europe

In Japan, on the other hand, most of the players have jobs as office workers or teachers. Because of limited practice time, their individual skills were inferior and they had to use their organizational skills to compete. Mr. Takada, who believes that “winning a medal in such a difficult environment is the most valuable thing,” worked with the coaches and staff to thoroughly analyze the opponents and devise tactics and strategies that would prevent the stronger nations from overpowering them.

In the Paralympic Games, they defeated both Spain and France, which Turkey had failed to do. It seems that the Turkish national team highly valued his management ability to find ways to compensate for the lack of individual players’ strength and win through organizational power.

A soccer insider living in Europe, who is involved in the transfer of Japanese players, said.

If you want to become a manager or coach of a club here, you need to have a qualification recognized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), but it doesn’t mean you can coach if you have a certain level of qualification recognized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In other words, Asia is still at a lower level in Europe.

The current players in Europe who can become coaches in European clubs in the near future are goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, midfielder Makoto Hasebe, and defender Maya Yoshida. What they all have in common is not only their achievements as players, but also their ability to use the language to communicate with the local people in depth. There are a lot of people in the soccer industry who want to become coaches here, so in order to get a job among them, you need to have a good network of people.

When Mr. Takada was serious about becoming a coach, he studied world-class coaching in Italy, Germany, and Spain. He has an office in Spain as well as in Japan, and has contacts overseas. As a player, however, he reached third place in the All Japan Club Youth Championship with Osaka’s Katano FC in high school, but failed to become a professional.

His contemporaries were Go Kitazawa and Tetsuo Nakanishi, who later became active in the J-League, but Mr. Takada, who went on to study at Seigaku University, felt more attracted to “training players who can become professionals” than to becoming a professional player. After graduating from university, he went to work for a general company. While working, in his spare time, he became obsessed with coaching youth soccer.

After quitting the company, he went to Europe to get his certification and opened a goalkeeping school in Tokyo. In the first two months, he had only one student, but he overcame the hardship of thinking, “My life depends on making this kid good,” and students came to him after hearing his reputation.

It’s true that I was offered the position. I believe that the entire efforts of the coaches and staff who competed with me on the Japanese national team have been recognized by the world’s fourth-ranked country.

Mr. Takada acknowledged the fact that he had received an offer, but did not say much more than that. But he is said to be thinking positively about the appointment. Will the newly minted coach, who has no J-League experience either as a player or coach, become the first Japanese manager of a European powerhouse? The dream of the Japanese soccer world is packed in the future of Mr. Takada’s contract.

Rankings published by the International Federation of Football Associations for the Visually Impaired. The yellow boxes indicate the countries that participated in last year’s Paralympics. In the Paralympics, Brazil won the gold medal, Argentina the silver, and Morocco the bronze.
Mr. Takada gives instructions to ace Tomonari Kuroda (right) during a game. When giving positioning instructions to a player who is blind, he often wrote the instructions on the player’s back.
The team’s first Paralympic victory against France. If he is appointed as the coach of the Turkish national team, it will open the door to the history of Japanese soccer (Photo: Afro)
  • Photo by Kazutoshi Uchida Kazutoshi Uchida

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