Moriyasu the main man

Sanfrecce Hiroshima sealed its third J1 title in four years at the weekend, and coach Hajime Moriyasu deserves huge credit for turning the club’s potential into actual achievement… Also available in English here / 日本語版はこちらです)

Football Channel,  December 9th, 2015

Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s triumph in the J.League play-offs was a richly deserved and fitting reward for a team which was undoubtedly the best in J1 in 2015.

The success also added to Sanfrecce’s credentials as a truly big club in the Japanese game; winning a championship is never easy, back-to-back titles an outstanding achievement, but three in four years a sign that something is very right with a club.

Unsurprisingly, conflict and turmoil rarely, if ever, crop up at the club from the international city of peace, and there can be little doubt as to who is fundamentally responsible for that.

Hajime Moriyasu is the kind of coach any team would like to have in charge, going about his job in a professional, efficient, and respectful manner – while all the while picking up trophies. The progress that Sanfrecce have made since he took the reins from Mihailo Petrovic in 2012 has been nothing short of remarkable.

Petrovic’s work in laying the foundations in Hiroshima should not be forgotten – and Moriyasu has frequently credited the Serb, with whom he worked as a coach for three years, for planting the seeds for Sanfrecce’s purple patch – but it has been the pupil who has nurtured the team and led it to such heights.

He also conducts himself impeccably, and just minutes after joyfully screaming into the microphone during his pitch-side interview after the 1-1 draw with Gamba sealed the title on Saturday he was courteously shaking hands with and bowing to Kenta Hasegawa and each of his staff on the opposition bench.

Unsurprisingly, his players also speak highly of him.

“It’s all thanks to him,” Douglas said when asked about his coach’s role in winning the title. “Of course if he wasn’t here we couldn’t play this kind of football. He has built the team properly, and all of the players take on board the things he teaches them and are able to express them out on the pitch.”

Mihael Mikic was likewise keen to sing his manager’s praises.

“I hope now other teams give us respect, because we made an unbelievable job in these four years – especially our kantoku, because without him I think we cannot make a result like this,” the Croatian, who never seems to age and still bombs up and down the Sanfrecce right wing relentlessly at 35, said.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach Hajime Moriyasu

“He really has everything, and most importantly he knows how he must train us and prepare for the next game. That is very important and the style we play and everything he makes so smartly and always calmly. Always analyzing the other teams and we prepare in the week how we must play [in the matches].”

Tsukasa Shiotani, meanwhile, is struck by the thorough way in which his boss goes about his work.

“I don’t think there’s another coach as good as him,” the Japan international said. “He really looks at everything. This year the substitutes have often produced results, and he watches the young players and second team in training all the time.

“The coach is the first one at the training ground and last one to leave – when I arrive he’s already there and when I leave he’s still around and watching the players. I think that kind of diligence is fantastic and don’t think there can be many coaches like that.”

Of course there is already talk of Moriyasu as a future Japan boss – and justifiably so with him being the first Japanese manager to win the J.League three times (an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has managed it in his first four years as a manager).

Whether he is capable of making the step up or suited to international as opposed to club management remains to be seen – the intricate day-to-day style for which he draws such praise from his players isn’t achievable with a national team, when the coach only has his squad together for a week or so at a time a handful of times a year – but if leading his country is an ambition then it would be hugely beneficial for Moriyasu if he could also gain some experience overseas beforehand.

The key requirement for a national team coach is to understand the domestic players and earn their respect, but once it comes to international competition an awareness of different approaches is invaluable in the modern game. In his trio of championships Moriyasu has collected the three arrows synonymous with his club already, but if he can add even more strings to his bow then he could well go on to become a huge success in the Japan hot seat.

Of course that is all a discussion to be saved for another day. For now, Sanfrecce Hiroshima – and the J.League as a whole – should just be grateful to have produced and be benefiting so richly from such a gifted and praiseworthy coach.


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