Saburo Kawabuchi reveals the “shocking words” of Japan national team coach Hajime Moriyasu | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Saburo Kawabuchi reveals the “shocking words” of Japan national team coach Hajime Moriyasu

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the birth of the J-League. An exclusive interview with Saburo Kawabuchi, the founder of the J-League

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Saburo Kawabuchi smiles at the Japan Football Museum in the Japan Football Association, where a photo of the Doha Tragedy is displayed to the right of the manuscript of the “J-League Opening Declaration” he swore on May 15, 1993 (Photo by Kaoru Watanabe)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the J-League, which got off to a spectacular start, and once the J-League got off the ground, Saburo Kawabuchi, the “founder” of the J-League and now an advisor to the Japan Football Association, took a leadership role not only in the world of soccer but also in the world of sports in Japan. Kawabuchi Saburo, the “founder” of the J-League and currently an advisor to the Japan Football Association.

However, the Japanese national team, which is aiming to participate in the World Cup in Qatar this November for the seventh consecutive time, is still struggling. Although Japan is in second place in Group B with four games remaining in the final Asian qualifying round, it is only one point behind third-place Australia, and fans are frustrated. The fans’ frustration exploded on social media, and last year there were many calls for the dismissal of Japan national team coach Hajime Moriyasu.

If Japan loses even one game in the two final qualifying matches at home (China on February 27 and Saudi Arabia at Saitama Stadium on February 1), which are scheduled to resume later this month, there is a risk that they will not be able to qualify for the World Cup again. In such a situation, Kawabuchi’s team is in danger of losing the World Cup again. Under such circumstances, Kawabuchi received a strong message from coach Moriyasu.

TV ratings for the final qualifying round for the World Cup were at 10%… “I was shocked.

After participating in the 1998 World Cup in France, Japan’s national soccer team, which has taken its place on the stage as a matter of course, stumbled to a bad start this time. Since Japan’s first appearance at the World Cup, the coach of the team that lost two matches in the final qualifying round has not been in charge of the team at the tournament. After the game, the debate about Moriyasu’s future began to erupt everywhere.

Japan won 2-1 at home against Australia on October 12, the fourth game of the tournament, which was reported to be a “sure-fire” loss. Ao Tanaka, who made his first start in the match, scored a goal to take control of the game and get an important result. Moriyasu Japan came back to life, but the following day, the average household TV rating was 16.8% (Kanto area, according to Video Research), and the individual viewer rating was 10.1%. However, the following day, the average household TV rating was 16.8% (according to Video Research in the Kanto area), and the individual viewer rating was 10.1%.

The popularity of the Japanese national soccer team has dropped by 30 percent. That’s what I thought. (The match against Australia) would have been a match that could have gotten close to 40 percent in the past.

Kawabuchi, who served as president of the Japan Football Association for about six years until 2008, is known to have always been concerned about TV ratings, even among past presidents. Although the method of calculating viewer ratings used by TV stations these days is different from what it is today, in 2006, Japan’s national team, under the leadership of Brazilian-born coach Zico, enjoyed viewer ratings of 20% even for friendly matches, and 47.2% for the opening match of the final Asian qualifying round in Germany (June 3, 2005, against North Korea). In the opening game of the Asian qualifying round in Germany (June 3, 2005, vs. North Korea), the viewer rating was 47.2%. It is true that we are nowhere near the excitement of those days.

From right to left: Maya Yoshida and Osako. From right to left: Maya Yoshida, Yuya Osako, and Kenei Kubo. This defeat triggered a road of hardship (Photo: Afro)

Why has that enthusiasm disappeared now? It is not unrelated to the fact that away matches are no longer televised on terrestrial television since the last qualifying round. This is due to the fact that all TV broadcasting rights for Japan’s national team matches in the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup are paid for by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Last year, the AFC signed an eight-year contract worth an estimated $2 billion (about 210 billion yen) with DDMC Forth, a Swiss-Chinese joint venture. DDMC Forth, a joint venture between Switzerland and China, has sold the broadcasting rights for the final qualifying rounds in Asia for an estimated $2 billion (about ¥210 billion) over eight years, making it the most expensive contract in history. With the Covid-19 disaster, Japanese TV stations, which were losing strength, did not have the strength to pay the full amount.

It is a matter for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), but they are ignoring and disrespecting many soccer fans. It’s a problem for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). For me, it’s a shame,” he said simply, looking at the fans the same way.

In the past, the national team has had Hide (Hidetoshi Nakata) and Honda (Keisuke). We’ve had 10 years of Hide and 10 years of Honda. But now there are no so-called superstars. It’s like, “Who do you look at in the Japanese national team now? It’s a situation like that.

One of the most promising players for the next generation is 20-year-old midfielder Kenei Kubo, who plays in the Spanish league.

He’s still too young. I think there is a way to make Kubo a pillar of the national team. (I think he’s on the verge of becoming a superstar. I think he’s on the verge of becoming a superstar, but he’s not at the level of Hide or Honda yet.

When Hide was active, (Nakamura) Shunsuke (Yokohama FC) was also there. And there was Inamoto (Junichi, Nankatsu FC) and Shinji Ono (Sapporo). With Honda, we had Hasebe (Makoto, Frankfurt) and Endo (Yasuhito, Iwata). We had solid players in the midfield to support the core players,” he said, accurately pointing out the lack of human resources in Japan’s national team to support the “face” of the team and the “face” of the team.

Before the inauguration of the J-League, the Japanese national soccer team’s popularity reached its peak when it won a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. It was Kawabuchi who, 30 years ago, was the one who kept shouting at the top of his voice that the soccer world, which was then a corporate sport, should be professionalized and the Japanese national team should participate in the World Cup.

I gave various presentations, but most of the people I talked to were stunned.

At a time when the team was far away from even participating in the Olympics, people thought, “There is no way we can participate in the World Cup. That is why I appealed for the establishment of the J-League to professionalize the game, saying that it is necessary to create a league based on professional clubs rooted in the community and raise the level of the league to challenge the world.

The first World Cup qualifying match of the year on March 27 will be played without injured defenders Maya Yoshida and Kenhiro Tomiyasu. It will be a game that will test the leadership of coach Moriyasu (Photo: Kyodo News)

I’m a ruthless man.

Although he is no longer a member of the Japan Football Association, he still maintains his belief that the Japan national soccer team is his starting point. That’s why he, like many other soccer fans, can’t help but be concerned about the plight of Japan’s Moriyasu.

At the end of last year, when Kawabuchi attended the J-League Awards, one of the annual award ceremonies of the Japanese soccer world, a man came to greet him. It was Moriyasu.

It was not Kawabuchi who started the conversation, but Moriyasu.

If you have anything to say to me, please say it. I don’t care what you have to say.

Kawabuchi recalled the moment.

Kawabuchi recalled, “I asked him, ‘What can I say? Kawabuchi recalled, “I asked him if I could say anything, and he said, ‘Yes. Moriyasu said, ‘Yes,’ and I thought, ‘That’s fine.

‘I understand your kindness to the players. I understand your kindness to the players, but aren’t you being too reserved? (You have to make your own decisions and play without worrying about it, instead of using your old name.

He then asked the interviewer, “After this, what do you think (coach Moriyasu) answered? I asked the interviewer. After a moment of silence, as if recalling the shock of that moment, he revealed, “I think Kawabuchi-san is right.

I am not the kind of man you think I am, Kawabuchi-san. I am a cruel man.

This is not the same as the “mie” of a Kabuki actor who makes a bold show of himself with his gestures. This is not the “mie” of a Kabuki actor who uses gestures to show his boldness. Moriyasu’s words continued.

I am well aware that what Mr. Kawabuchi is worried about will lead to the branding of me as a no-good Japanese coach.

These words were a perfect example of what Kawabuchi had been keeping in his heart for a long time. Kawabuchi’s words were a perfect example of what Kawabuchi had been holding inside for so long.

I was surprised,” he said. I was surprised. (I was surprised. Even if I had thought about it, I couldn’t have said it out loud. That’s why he said it. I thought he was putting a tremendous weight on his shoulders. But personally, I thought that I could trust him with this. I have no choice but to go all the way.

When Kawabuchi was president of the Japan Association, he was in charge of Zico Japan. Only once did the thought of dismissing him cross his mind: on March 31, 2004, during the first qualifying round of the World Cup Asia tournament, away from home against lowly Singapore. Japan took on the challenge with their best line-up, and despite taking more than 30 shots, they were unable to score a goal, and in the 37th minute of the second half, midfielder Fujita (Toshiya) scored a goal to escape with a 2-1 victory.

I don’t remember how many bottles of water I drank in that game, and in the second half I had to make a decision if we lost,” was all I could think about.

Although he was able to avoid the dismissal of Zico, which he chose himself, the core of Kawabuchi’s thinking changed dramatically.

I had always thought that the Japanese national soccer team should play a good game. I had always thought that the Japanese national team should play good games, but after this game, I started to think this way. But after this game, I started to think, ‘It doesn’t matter what’s inside, as long as we win! You know?”

There are four games left in the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup, which will resume in late January. In these two games at home, even a draw is not acceptable. Kawabuchi went on to say that he hoped for a victory.

Kawabuchi went on to say, “We need to work hard here and win back the fans by playing a game that will convince the people. Moriyasu is the man who knows this best.

What kind of tactics will Moriyasu, who has described himself as a “ruthless man,” wield in the first two games of the new year? Kawabuchi, like the fans, is watching with bated breath as he prepares for this important match that will determine the future of not only Japan’s national team, but also the popularity of soccer itself.

Photo: Kaoru Watanabe
  • Photo by Kaoru Watanabe

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