He says, “What has changed with the professionalization of soccer is that the annual salaries of some players have increased ten-fold. The number of players was almost the same, but the number of visitors suddenly increased at the stadiums. I didn’t realize how different it was (laughs).
Tetsuya Totsuka, a former Japan national team midfielder who played for the Yomiuri Club, the predecessor of Tokyo Verdy, from the Japan League days before the start of the J-League, experienced the professionalization of Japanese soccer and the drastic changes it underwent as a player.
Totsuka, with his outstanding technique, was the center of the Yomiuri Club attack along with George Yonashiro (71) and Ramos, and was the top scorer with 14 goals in ’84.’ After being selected for the Japan national team for the first time in 1980 at the age of 19, he participated in the Asian qualifying round for the ’82 World Cup in Spain, but an anecdote has it that he declined to join the national team for a while after that.
He said, “I mean, at that time, Yomiuri was playing soccer with George and Ramos, which was a little different from the national team, and for example, if I went to the national team training camp for a month and came back, I would not be able to keep up with the team training. I wondered about going to the national team in such a state. Matsuki-san (Antaro, 64) and Tonami (Toshifumi, 60) were also members of the national team from Yomiuri, but they were defenders and there was not much competition (laughs).
He and Tonami were classmates in elementary and junior high school. (Laughs.)” He recalls that he always remembered Totsuka’s words to him when they were in sixth grade.
After we watched a game between Yanmar and Mitsubishi, I said to him, ‘If this is the case, we’ll be better than you, so in the future we’ll be able to represent Japan. I had completely forgotten about it, but when we both made the national team, Toonami told me.
If Totsuka has any regrets about his playing days, it is the legendary Japan-Korea match in 1985 (Asian qualifying round), in which Japan could have qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico if they had won. Totsuka played in two games that were lost by a single goal, both home and away.
At the time, there was an atmosphere that it would be difficult to beat Korea, which already had a professional league,” he said. However, when I rewatched the matches several years ago, the content was close to 50-50. When I think about it, I started to feel that maybe we could have gone to the World Cup. ……
After retiring, Totsuka worked as a coach for FC Gifu and other teams, but he liked living in the countryside so much that he moved to the area. He now works in the kitchen as the owner of “Tamen Totsuka” in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture.
From the July 8, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Interview and text： Masao Kurihara PHOTO： Japan Soccer Meikeikai