30 Years in the J-League: Former Gamba player Hiromitsu Isogai Becomes a Foot Golfer | FRIDAY DIGITAL

30 Years in the J-League: Former Gamba player Hiromitsu Isogai Becomes a Foot Golfer

53-year-old midfielder from Gamba Osaka and other clubs decides to retire after Japan's World Cup appearance.

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Based in Osaka, he travels around Japan at the wheel of his car. He is even willing to stay overnight in his car.

Last year, he participated in the Japan Footgolf Tour, and in April of this year, he opened a YouTube channel called “Batten Hiromitsu.” Hiromitsu Isogai, who played for Gamba Osaka and other teams as a prodigious midfielder in the mid-1990s, is still busy at the age of 50.

He says, “I have a footgolf match this summer that will lead to the world championships, so I’m aiming for that first. I started YouTube because I wanted to do something fun with my friends. The “batten” in “Batten Hiromitsu” is a combination of the word “batten” in the Kumamoto dialect, where I am from, and the number 10 on my back. I don’t have many registered members yet, but I bought a GoPro, and I hope to take on more challenges in the future.”

He has been a center of attention since his student days, graduating from the prestigious Teikyo High School and then Tokai University. Even after turning pro, he was once called the successor to Rui Ramos (65) because of his unparalleled precision in kicking with both feet and his through passes that hit the opponent’s vital spot with a single strike. He was once called the successor to Rui Ramos (65), but his reputation was divided, with some saying that he had talent but could not run, and others saying that his kicking was good but he did not play hard enough.

He said, “I have very little memory of my active career, but my first goal was against Urawa Reds at Komaba on June 19, ’93, when I took the ball from an FK next to the wall and scored with my left foot. The reason I remember it is because after the game I had an accident in the car I borrowed from the president of a friend of mine, and I was wondering whether the next day’s newspaper would print it as my first goal or as an accident (laughs).

In 1998, while the whole country was excited about the World Cup in France, in which the Japanese national team participated for the first time, Isogai, who had transferred to Urawa, quietly took off his spikes during the season.

On the day Japan entered the World Cup, I thought, ‘My career is over.’ It was like my love affair with soccer was over. I went to the club to tell them I was going to a golf competition the next day, but no one was in the office, so I asked them to leave a message saying, ‘Please tell them I’m quitting. (Laughs.) I wasn’t able to practice at 100% due to injury at the time, and there was a big gap between my ideal soccer game and what I wanted to do. That was my own aesthetic.

I guess there were parts of my J-League career that I did not fully complete. Even so, Isogai smiled amiably, saying, “I have no regrets at all.

Isogai worked hard with Akihiro Nagashima (58) and Kenji Honnami (58) at Gamba Osaka. He served as captain and played two games for the Japan national team in 1995.
Unpublished article: “Surprising Second Careers” of five J-League star players of yesteryear.

From the July 8, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview, text, and photography Masao Kurihara

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