Former Japanese National Soccer Team Player’s Life after Becoming a City Council Member | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former Japanese National Soccer Team Player’s Life after Becoming a City Council Member

44-year-old goalkeeper for Urawa Reds and other teams, reborn after a life as a ronin, from goalkeeper to "guardian god of the city

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Born in Nara Prefecture in 1978. First elected to the Saitama City Council in 2003, he won the top position in his second term in ’19 and became the incumbent!

He played 250 games for Gamba Osaka, Urawa Reds, and Shonan Bellmare. Ryuta Tsuzuki, who also played for the Japan national team, has been struggling as a member of the Saitama City Council since 2015.

“I had no idea what I would do after I retired from soccer,” he says. However, in January 2011, I lost the team I belonged to, and I looked for a team that would sign me up until the last minute, but I couldn’t find one.

I had about two months to prepare. I left without knowing anything concrete, so as expected, I was not selected. I had no ambition at the time, and it was only natural that I would fail as an amateur who did not know what was right and what was left. I can say now that it was because I failed once and spent four years as a ronin that I was able to change myself 180 degrees. Looking at it that way, my failure was not in vain.

During Urawa’s golden years in the mid-00s, he contributed to winning many titles, including the J-League, Emperor’s Cup, and Asian Champions League (ACL). However, when German coach Volker Finke took over in 2009, he was omitted from the Urawa squad because he felt that his emotional outbursts would discourage the younger players from playing. He was constantly and vehemently proclaiming to his teammates from behind because it would have been frustrating to lose.

I think there was a problem with the way I said it, but I was being serious about my performance. I have no regrets about what I did. If I had been mentally on the defensive, I would have quit my current position much earlier.

Seven years have passed since he was first elected, and next spring he will face his third term in local elections.

The job of a councilor is to listen to the requests of residents and resolve them, whether it is paving roads or installing traffic lights. Unlike soccer, that in itself is not fun, but it is rewarding when what you are trying to do takes shape. However, I myself am not satisfied with the project currently being promoted by Saitama City called “Sports Facility” (a large-scale stay-and-go-round sports facility). What Saitama City is promoting is a network-type facility, which means that, for example, a hotel, a sports field, and a gymnasium are not all in one place. Can you call it a sports facility?

The passion with which he spoke reminded me of my playing days.

He played only six games for the Japanese national team. I was satisfied with being selected. The only regret I have is that I didn’t go all out for the national team.
Ryuta Tsuzuki, five J-League stars of yesteryear: Surprising Second Careers
Unpublished cuts from the magazine Five J-League stars of yesteryear: Surprising Second Careers

From the July 8, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text Masao Kurihara PHOTO Takeshi Kinugawa

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