Posts Tagged ‘アフシン・ゴトビ

22
May
12

S-Pulse among new contenders as old guard struggles

The J.League is steadily earning a reputation for being an open and competitive division. The first third of this season has been no exception, and while some of the bigger clubs struggle in the lower-reaches of the table several unfancied sides are leading the way in J1.

On Saturday I was at Saitama Stadium to see two of these sides – Urawa Reds and Shimizu S-Pulse – go head-to-head, and gathered some thoughts from those involved on their title chances in 2012.

17
Apr
12

S-Pulse snap Jubilo streak in Shizuoka derby

This weekend I was at Nihondaira Stadium for the Shizuoka Derby between Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata.

I provided a match report from that game and a round-up of the rest of the J1 action for The Daily Yomiuri on Monday.

07
Dec
11

The Mixed Zone with…Freddie Ljungberg

There aren’t many big-name foreign players in the J.League at the moment, with the money that used to attract them now in the oil-rich regions in the Middle East.

Not all players are just in it for the cash though, and my interview with Freddie Ljungberg revealed a player who is interested in a lot more than his pay-cheque.

16
Nov
11

Former Arsenal star Ljungberg aims high with S-Pulse

Freddie Ljungberg’s arrival at Shimizu S-Pulse was completely unexpected and served to revitalise the side in the second half of the 2011 J.League season.

Last week I sat down with the former Sweden captain to find out why he chose to come to Japan and what he is looking to achieve in his time here.

22
Sep
11

S-Pulse ready with Freddie

Shimizu S-Pulse are aiming for the very top, and their latest signing shows that they are serious about getting there…

The question on everybody’s lips was how? How did Shimizu S-Pulse manage to sign Freddie Ljungberg?

During the J.League’s early years, players in the twilight of their careers often turned up for one last pay-day before retirement, but now the money is in the Middle-East, not Japan.

Ljungberg will almost certainly have been offered better terms by clubs in other parts of the world, then, so why did he choose Shizuoka?

The answer seems to lie with Afshin Ghotbi’s powers of persuasion.

“I have a lot of relationships abroad and I spoke with a lot of different people about him – people that have played alongside him, people that know him – and we spent almost two weeks on the phone every day talking to each other,” S-Pulse’s head coach explained to me.

“I think he likes my regime, I like his mentality. He will be a great addition to our team and hopefully he can get S-Pulse to the championship that we desire so much, sooner rather than later.”

Ghotbi believes that the capture of the former Arsenal man means everything is now in place to achieve this ambitious aim.

“I already have Shinji Ono and [Naohiro] Takahara who are icons of Japanese football and I think Freddie is an icon of international football. So it could maybe complete creating the leaders in the team to bring our younger players faster to the level that they need to come to.”

As well as creating success on the pitch, he also believes it can improve the image of the club and the J.League overseas.

“I’ve no doubt he’s going to be an icon for the league and a great attraction for the J.League on an international scale.”

The early signs on this front are good.

When I arrived at S-Pulse’s Miho training ground the day after the Shizuoka Derby, for instance, Mamiko Fujioka was already there.

Fujioka-san had lived in Sweden for a year, during which time she developed a keen interest in Swedish football – and of course the country’s then-captain, Freddie.

She had travelled from Kyoto for the Jubilo match and arrived over an hour before the public training session began the next day in the hope of meeting her hero.

As the signed Sweden shirt she had on proved, she had succeeded in this aim, and was literally jumping for joy.

Of course, Freddie also has a great deal to offer on the pitch, and he explained at his unveiling just how he could improve the side.

“[The coach] wants me to help move the ball and help us to maybe be a bit more calm and to create chances for my teammates – to use my experience of big games and winning things and get that mentality to the other players.”

Indeed, despite having made his name at Arsenal as an attacking midfielder, he entered the action a little deeper on his debut, a position that Alex Brosque feels he is perfectly suited to.

“That’s mainly to try and get him on the ball as much as we can. If we’re able to do that with him and Shinji on the field I think we can be a bit more dangerous.”

He actually replaced Shinji in that game though, so I asked the S-Pulse captain if he felt there was room for them both in the side. 

“Yes, I think so,” he replied, eagerly. “If we want to play football then maybe I need to get the ball further back from closer to the defenders and manage the team from defensive midfield.”  

Ljungberg agreed, and insisted that having them work in tandem was eventually the aim.

“Of course we can, otherwise there wouldn’t be any point (in me coming to Shimizu). He’s a good football player so, of course. I’m looking forward to that.

“It depends how we play, whether I play forwards or if we play with two defensive and I’ll play just in front. Sometimes here they play with one in behind and two in front and then we share the responsibility. It’s up to the coach.”

Having such a wealth of options and talented players certainly looks great on paper, and if Ono and Ljungberg can both stay fit then S-Pulse really could have a chance to turn the theory into practice.

16
Sep
11

Ljungberg brings spark to S-Pulse

Shimizu S-Pulse surprised everybody a couple of weeks ago when they announced the capture of former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg.

The ex-Sweden captain made his debut in last weekend’s Shizuoka Derby, and I was there to get his thoughts, and those of his coach and teammates, on his arrival in Japan.

07
Sep
11

Stage is set for Shizuoka Derby

Earlier in the season the Shizuoka Derby made the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. The return fixture is this weekend and promises to be a good’un…

This Saturday is the most eagerly anticipated Shizuoka Derby for years.

While both Jubilo and Shimizu have had more successful seasons in the past, contesting the biggest prizes in the Japanese game, this match is special because there is something perhaps more important at stake; local pride.

To an extent this is always on the line in derbies, but the clash at Ecopa Stadium is the first time the sides have squared off since the incident involving the “Ghotbi Stop Making Nuclear Bombs” banner at Nihondaira in May, and as a result the atmosphere is sure to be electric.

While that matter is now officially closed – with Afshin Ghotbi having taken it in his stride, Jubilo banning the fans responsible and Shimizu reprimanding their supporters who became involved – the scars are not completely healed.

S-Pulse fan Daisuke Matsura, for example – one of the nearly 30 Shimizu supporters who forced their way into the Jubilo end to demand the banner and were subsequently handed three-match bans by S-Pulse – cannot wait for the match.

Matsura accepted his punishment – which encompassed the league games at home to Albirex and away to Cerezo, and the Nabisco Cup clash with Ventforet at Nihondaira – and explained to me why he and his fellow supporters broke stadium rules and entered the away section.

“We knew what would happen to us (banned from few home games) if we reacted under such a situation, but we soon decided to go and stop the Iwata supporters.  It was all for our pride against them because it was derby day and not to allow them behave as they wanted in our home stadium. 

“Many people may think that we rushed towards the Jubilo side right away, but that’s wrong. My fellow supporters and I actually had a brief discussion if we would really go or not before we started running to the other side. 

“What happened in the Iwata side was far away from violence at all.  No one got injured from either group of supporters. Us Shimizu supporters simply asked them to stop and give up the banner. Of course, the Iwata supporters didn’t respond right away.” 

Although obviously angered by the content of the banner he admits to understanding the potential motivation behind it, and suggests that if the Jubilo fans had expressed themselves differently the incident may not have become so out of hand.

“I guess they tried to show their intense hate towards Shimizu on the derby day.  I kind of understand this feeling because we have that feeling as well towards Iwata.  But I guess they just picked a wrong way to show it. If it was some sort of insulting chant, I guess we could take it differently.”

An instance of verbal abuse has also made headlines this season though – with Kofu’s Mike Havenaar allegedly being racially abused at Kashiwa’s Hitachi Dai Stadium.

While no culprit has been officially identified by the club, several of the core Reysol fans have since been served with lifetime bans for “repeated bad behaviour”.

Matsura is adamant that there are no problems of racism creeping onto Japanese stands on the scale of the scenes witnessed in Russia (Roberto Carlos had a banana thrown in his direction while playing for Anzhi Makhachkala) or Belgium (where Japan No. 1 Eiji Kawashima was subjected to a “Fukushima” taunt last month), though.

“There are actually a few supporters in all clubs who behave impulsively, but they are still a minority in J.League stands” he says.

And although he and his fellow fans are fired up for this game against their local rivals he insists that no specific acts of retribution are on the cards.

“This incident will surely have increased our tension, especially for those who actually got involved and banned.  At this point, we are not preparing anything. You might see some banners and actions in Shimizu stands, but they would be nothing special, I guess.”

While there may be ‘nothing special’ planned it is sure to be a heated occasion, and with S-Pulse’s new marquee signing Freddie Ljungberg also looking set to be making his debut in the game as well  all the ingredients are in place for a cracking game of football.

03
Sep
11

All for One

After the tragedy in March the J.League acted swiftly and en masse to help the situation. Further to the official recovery efforts the side closest to the disaster hit region, Vegalta Sendai, embarked upon a fantastic run of results that saw the usual minnows vying at the top of the table.

I spoke to several Vegalta fans to find out just how much of an impact the side’s efforts had had in the area for No. 1 Shimbun.

16
Jun
11

The Back Post – Global man Ghotbi forgives

Shimizu S-Pulse’s Iranian-American head coach Afshin Ghotbi has had to put up with a fair amount of discrimination in his lifetime.

The constant of football has not only helped him deal with and overcome these problems, but also to try and leave a positive mark on the world around him.

08
Jun
11

Ghotbi calls for unity, not division

Shimizu S-Pulse’s head coach Afshin Ghotbi was the target of a ridiculous banner at the recent Shizuoka derby, but the  Iranian-American refused to get angry with the perpetrators, instead taking the high-road.

I have spoken several times about my desire to see more passion in Japanese football stadiums, and at Nihondaira for the Shizuoka derby I got it.

While the catalyst was a reprehensible banner that nobody with an ounce of intelligence would condone, the reaction by the Shimizu supporters, and that of the Jubilo fans in response, served to create an electric atmosphere.

As news and pictures began to appear online of the S-Pulse fans storming the away end and attempting to remove the banner in question I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find the scenes exciting.

The Shimizu fans were quite rightly enraged by the offensive message on display, and immediately set about removing it from the stand. The Jubilo fans, meanwhile – many of whom were doubtless unaware what the banner said, and may have reacted differently if they had – also assumed the defensive and stood their ground.

As a result a new chapter has been added to this famous fixture.

Afshin Ghotbi himself, while unaware at the time what was happening, admitted to being moved by his fans’ actions, telling me that, “I think that the reaction is in a way very honorable. They really love their club so much, they love their manager so much that they stood up for him and tried to defend him. Not so much the fight, but the fact that they actually went and tried to remove the banner.”

His thoughts on the individuals responsible for the banner – two teenage Jubilo supporters – differ from mine slightly though.

I would personally like to see them banned from attending J.League games again. I appreciate that they are young (and stupid) but can’t help but feel that there is more to their actions than just an act of immaturity.

If they had just shouted something out in the heat of the moment in a misguided attempt to stand out and/or impress those around them then they could just be dismissed as naïve (and stupid). But to take the time and effort to gather the materials and make a banner suggests that they may actually believe that Mr. Ghotbi is somehow a justifiable recipient of such abuse.

The S-Pulse coach takes a far more tolerant – and, admittedly, productive – stance though, and would welcome the opportunity to share an audience with them.

“It would be an interesting thing to meet with those two fans, face-to-face,” he said. “Just to enlighten them and give them a hug and show them that we’re all the same.

“We were born in different places but in the end we’re human beings. Maybe that experience can show them the right direction, because they’re young – they’re just young people and I think they don’t know any better.”

He does believe that the J.League should exert more control over what messages are displayed in its stadiums though, pointing out that they are symbols of the entire club, not just the people unfurling them.

  

“There should be some guidelines on which banners can go up representing that particular club and they should be checked at the entrance by the leaders of that club.”

Although he is clear that these measures should not be “strict”, he does feel that certain subjects have no business in a football stadium, stating simply that, “Really there’s no place for political statements when it comes to football matches.”

The timing of the attack is also hard to understand, with Japan still in recovery from one of the biggest tragedies in its recent history – and one which has sparked assistance from all over the world.

“We experienced such an enormous, historic tragedy with the tsunami, and those kind of events should unite us more than anything else,” he said.

This is far from being the first time that the Iranian-American has experienced discrimination though, and after a lifetime as what he terms “a global citizen” he refuses to be overly concerned by the event, instead suggesting that it should be used to bring about a positive development in the Japanese game.

“If we do the right things now it can create a moment of growth for all Japanese people and Japanese football.”

One thing that has certainly been heightened is the animosity between Shizuoka’s two clubs, and I am certain that there will be plenty of passion on display the next time the sides meet.




If Sakka Nihon isn’t enough then you can follow my every move (sort of) here.

Receive an email each time I post something new and/or interesting by...

Join 42 other followers

Back Catalogue

what day is it?

July 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031