Farewell to my beloved Urawa Reds” Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about everything | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Farewell to my beloved Urawa Reds” Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about everything

Special Talk: 10 Years of Intense and Passionate Relationship with Japan's Fiercest Supporters - Behind-the-Scenes Stories We Can Still Reveal

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They continued to support Urawa Reds for a long time. Now that they have left the club, what will they think and say?

Two great players who have been the faces of the Reds for a long time are leaving the club. Tomoaki Makino, 34, and Tomoya Ugajin, 33, have both been key players for Urawa Reds for more than a decade. Both have been key players for Urawa Reds for more than a decade, winning numerous titles, including the AFC Champions League (ACL) in 2005 and the Emperor’s Cup last season.

On the other hand, in recent years, he has been away from the battle for the league championship, experiencing both the sour and sweet sides of the Urawa region in Saitama. The club’s fierce supporters, known as “Japan’s best” for their overwhelming unity and enthusiastic cheering style, have always been a source of support for the players, even though they sometimes scolded them harshly. In this interview, two legends who describe the club as “extraordinary in every way” talk about their experiences.

Ugajin: Twelve years as a professional, eighteen if you include the youth team. I don’t know how I was able to play for one club for such a long time. I’ve decided to move to FC Gifu, but to be honest, I don’t really feel like I’m leaving the club yet. Reds has been such an essential part of my life.

Makino: In my case, it’s been 10 years since I started playing for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Germany. At that time, I appeared in many variety shows and was viewed with a lot of skepticism by supporters. I was surprised to hear people say things like, “You didn’t come here to perform,” even when we were having dinner on the street (laughs). (laughs) On the other hand, it got me fired up. I was glad to be a part of such a town where people were watching us very closely.

Ugajin At the time, the Reds had a clear division between senior and junior players, and it was a bit of a vertical society. Makino was the one who broke down those barriers. When the team moved, Makino became the DJ who chose the music.

Makino: It may only be 10 years from Uga’s point of view, but it’s been a very intense 10 years. We get along well and have a lot of fun, and every day is like a school trip (laughs). (laughs) That’s why I was so upset when I was told that my contract was expiring, which I hadn’t expected. Even when I went to the club, I felt sentimental, wondering how many more times I could pass this way. ……

Ugajin There are a lot of things you can’t understand unless you play in the Reds club and in that stadium. It’s a club where only victory is allowed at all times. Even when we managed to draw a game, I would get scolded and told, “What are you doing? To be honest, I was under a lot of pressure. There were many times when I thought, “I don’t want to play soccer in this environment.

Every year, a large number of mainstays from each team would come to the club, and there was a lot of player turnover. It’s like the “Giants” in baseball, where you have to work hard to get a regular spot. But on the other hand, what I remember most are the interactions with the supporters and the words they said to me.

Makino: When we lost, it was terrible. When we left the stadium, the club bus was surrounded by supporters and we couldn’t move. It was after the defeat, so we were very tired, and we just had to keep waiting in silence. In the end, we were released two hours later. There was also a time when some fans broke the windshield wipers of the bus. I was terrified. It was like, “Is this Serie A?

Ugajin When we won the ACL championship, the pubs in town were open until morning, and the calls kept echoing for over 8 hours. What are you all going to do at work? Also, there were three times when a supporter reported to me, “We have named our child Tomoya” (laughs).

(laughs) (next page)

Makino: Fans have surprised me in other ways, too. I once received a marriage certificate in the mail (laughs). I’ve received a lot of gifts, including the Louis Vuitton carrying case that I’m using on my trips.

Ugajin With such enthusiastic supporters, the players are encouraged by their supporters and are able to perform better than their abilities.

Makino: Some people may question it, but I think it’s really good to create a cheer and atmosphere that other teams don’t have. Of course, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed, but it’s also true that it inspired me.

Ugajin: The players were also very conscious of being watched, and they were very careful about how they acted and dressed.

Makino: The salaries are higher than other teams, so the young players have a lot of antennae. They look at what kind of cars their seniors are driving and what brands they are wearing. Recently, “Balenciaga” and “Supreme” have been popular, but the Urawa way is to wear high brands without hesitation rather than the obvious brand names with logos (laughs).

Ugajin: That’s the fashion leader (laughs). The same is true for the team’s performance, which has been substandard and unpredictable. We won the Emperor’s Cup and the ACL in years when we had no results in the league, so I think we were an unpredictable team. Particularly in the last few years, we have had a hard time deciding what kind of soccer we want to play. I think we were finally able to show a lot of direction last season.

Makino: Last year was a difficult start to the season for the team, with Yosuke (Kashiwagi) (34) and Kenyuu (Sugimoto) (29) violating discipline. I could see some of the younger players were confused, so Uga and I made a conscious effort to show them the direction we were going from practice as vice-captains.

Ugajin It’s a big club, so we stand out for better or worse. But I have been inspiring the team to stand out in a good way, and to do that, we have to get results. That’s why winning the Emperor’s Cup last year was probably the most exciting title I’ve ever won. I scored a goal in the semifinal, and Makino scored a dramatic goal in the final. It was like a drama, with both of us leaving the team playing the leading roles. I wanted to stay with this team for as long as possible, so this was a great result for me.

Makino: I used to say that the most exciting thing for me was winning the ACL championship, but that has been overwritten. It’s been a difficult season for us, but we’ve always said that we wanted to make it to the Asian stage as a team, and now we’ve got the best souvenir.

Ugajin: I’ve had a lot of frustrating experiences over the past 18 years, such as missing a shot against Gamba Osaka for the league championship in 2002. Even so, as someone who has continued to work hard, I was able to finally say to myself, “I have it. Then I saw Makino, who had even more (laughs). My time at Reds was truly a happy time. To be honest, I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

Makino: I wanted to show the team that I could still do it at Reds, and I wanted to tell the supporters that we can still do it even if we go to a different team. The win and the goal were a condensation of my desire to convey such a positive message. I thought I had switched over to a certain extent after I was transferred to Vissel Kobe, but then I started remembering things (laughs). I’m sad that I won’t be able to receive those cheers at Saitama Stadium as a Reds player anymore.

With the same love for Reds in their hearts after leaving the club, the two players will continue their challenge in their new home.

Ugajin scored the first goal in the semifinals, and Makino scored the final goal in the final to win the Emperor’s Cup championship medal. It was his last title with Urawa.
Tomoaki Makino (34): Has played for Reds since 2012, after playing for Sanfrecce Hiroshima and FC Köln in Germany’s first division. He played a total of 312 games in the J.League for Urawa. He also supported the team as a mood maker.
Tomoya Ugajin (33): Has been a member of the Urawa Reds youth team since his junior high school days. After graduating from the University of Ryutsukeizai, he joined the first team in the middle of the 2009 season. Has played 293 games in the J.League, playing both sides of the pitch.
The two were all smiles during the interview. Even though the interview went over the scheduled time by 30 minutes, they never ran out of things to talk about.
Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about “Farewell, my beloved Urawa Reds”.
Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about “Farewell, my beloved Urawa Reds”.
Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about “Farewell, my beloved Urawa Reds”.
Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about “Farewell, my beloved Urawa Reds”.
Tomoaki Makino and Tomoya Ugajin talk about “Farewell, my beloved Urawa Reds”, which has never been published in this magazine.

From “FRIDAY” February 11, 2022 issue

  • PHOTO Takero Kizuna, Afro (2nd, 5th) Naoki Morita/Afro Sports (4th)

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