In ’05, my second year as a professional, I scored 13 goals in 31 games and won the rookie of the year award. However, 11 of the 13 goals were one-touch goals. At that time, Jubilo still had legends from the golden era such as Hiroshi Namba (49) alive and well, and I just finished last with the support of my top-notch seniors. So, I felt like I only raised the bar without gaining any confidence. It’s unfortunate, but looking back, that was my peak (laughs).
Karen Robert, born to a Northern Irish father and Japanese mother, played for Jubilo Iwata and Japan’s U-23 national team in qualifying for the Beijing Olympics.
In his second year at the prestigious Funabashi Municipal High School, he won the National High School Soccer Championship, and in his third year, despite being a high school student, his team reached the third round of the Emperor’s Cup, which went to extra time against the J-League champions of the same year, Yokohama F. Marinos. In his junior year, the team made headlines when it reached the third round of the Emperor’s Cup, playing an exciting game that went into overtime against the J-League champions Yokohama F. Marinos.
He was so impressed by the high school soccer team and the Emperor’s Cup that even now he is like a former J-League player, like Karen from Ichifune. I’m like a former J-League player, like Karen from Ichifune. But I didn’t score a goal, just an assist. I am proud of what I accomplished with Ichifune, but it seems that people don’t know much about Cullen Robert as a J-League player (laughs).
In January 2011, he moved to VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands, and after that he played for clubs in Thailand, Korea, India, and other countries.
He says, “My first love was English soccer, because of my father. In the end, I dreamed of playing against big clubs in the home country of soccer, but without any results, I thought it was time to move on. I did it all, and it would have been great if I could have quit with an offer from a club somewhere in a higher league, but I am satisfied with how I tried.”
After playing in the J-League for seven years, he spent a long time overseas, and he says his experiences there have led him to where he is today.
“After playing in the J-League for seven years, I spent a lot of time overseas, and my experiences there have led me to where I am today,” he says. I was also blessed in terms of salary and was able to save money, which made it easier for me to pursue a second career. I am now the owner of Bousou Rovers Kisarazu FC, a club in Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture, which aims to join the J-League in the future.
In 1919, a project was started to raise the Rovers’ top team to J3 within 12 years. Last season, they won the Chiba Prefecture First Division League for the first time, which is equivalent to seven divisions counting from J1. This season, the team is aiming for a long-cherished promotion to the Kanto League (Division 2).
From the July 8, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Interview and text： Masao Kurihara PHOTO： Takeshi Kinugawa