Posts Tagged ‘Genki Omae

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.

30
Nov
11

It’s good to talk

Everybody makes mistakes. Why on earth don’t we talk about them though?

One of the things I enjoy most about league football is the way that everything is interrelated. What happens – or doesn’t (more on which shortly) – in one game can affect the fortunes of a team who are not even playing.

The end of the season is the most exciting and complex time to consider this relationship, with almost every game having a bearing on events elsewhere.

The final result of a match is the most obvious example of this – if Team A loses to Team B then Team C can stay top/escape relegation etc. – but there are countless other incidents that can also have knock-on effects.

I find the lack of attention paid to these other details very frustrating.

Take, for example, the varied goings-on in Shizuoka in Round 32.

Reysol weren’t the quickest out of the traps and just before half-time S-Pulse took the lead courtesy of a trademark piledriver free-kick from Eddy Bosnar.

S-Pulse came out at the start of the second half with their tails up and should have had the chance to establish a two-goal lead when Genki Omae was clearly brought down in the penalty box. The referee, Hiroyoshi Takayama, disagreed and waved play on.

Now, it is common knowledge that referees make mistakes. I am not saying that as a criticism but simply as a fact. Everybody – referees, players, coaches, you, even me (occasionally) – makes mistakes.

I have been told on numerous occasions that Japanese people are terrified of doing so, though, and that people would far sooner say or do nothing at all than risk being wrong. To point out somebody else’s error is thus also seen as hugely disrespectful.

I understand this way of thinking to an extent, but, really, it’s complete nonsense. To make a mistake is not a bad thing. In fact, getting things wrong is often the best way to learn.

Once, for example, I was speaking with a friend before a game at NACK5 Stadium. It was the middle of the hanami season and you could see the cherry blossoms behind the stands in Omiya Park. I pointed in their direction and instead of saying “Sakura kirei ne?” (“the cherry blossoms are pretty, huh?”) I said “Sakana kirei ne?” (“the fish are pretty, huh?”)

Needless to say, I am now clearer on the difference between fish and cherry blossoms.

Mr. Takayama’s error and the far-reaching consequences it could have had (if Reysol lost Grampus would have remained top), were not discussed after the game though. The highlights I saw didn’t even show the incident, and the only mention it got was when the commentators were discussing the game statistics and laughingly referred to Afshin Ghotbi’s declaration that his side should have had a penalty.

There was another incident in the game that was also completely ignored, when it really ought to have been highlighted.

Leandro Domingues, undoubtedly this year’s MVP and a wonderful player to watch, caused a fracas on the touchline by flinging himself to the ground and attempting to get S-Pulse’s Calvin Jong-a-pin sent off, suggesting he had been hit in the face.

From my vantage point on the halfway line it looked like nothing more than a regular coming together, and Leandro’s actions were disappointing.

Unsavoury – although, let’s be honest, fun-to-watch – incidents such as these are not given coverage either though, and I don’t understand why.

Leandro, who is far from a stranger to the darker arts of the game – I saw him avoid a blatant red card for an elbow earlier in the season, too – was not asked for his version of events after the match, instead being dealt the regular, formulaic questions about positions and formations.

Just because neither he nor Jong-a-pin were punished in the game doesn’t mean the event didn’t warrant discussion.

In a similar way to that in which one game affects another, what we do and don’t discuss now impacts on the continued development of the Japanese game.

Ignoring mistakes and gamesmanship and attempting to sweep them under the carpet doesn’t mean that they will just go away. In fact, the less coverage they get, the more likely it is that they will keep occurring.

30
Sep
11

Striking a different note

Since the J.League began it has almost always been the local players creating the chances, while foreign imports have taken the glory by banging in the goals. That looks like it is changing slowly…

In recent weeks I’ve noticed something strange has been going on in the J.League.

While everybody’s attention has been distracted by the sea of tricky little creative midfielders and energetic full-backs pouring overseas, a new type of Japanese player has been slowly coming into being back home.

A glance at the scoring charts confirmed that I wasn’t imagining things and my suspicions were true; the country is producing goalscorers.

Eight out of the top ten in J1 after Round 26 were Japanese, and all of them were into double-figures.

Alongside the usual suspects Ryoichi Maeda and Keiji Tamada were the experienced Yuzo Tashiro and Shingo Akamine, as well as four younger strikers Mike Havenaar, Tadanari Lee, Junya Tanaka and Yu Kobayashi.

Of course, there has always been the odd Japanese player in and around the top of the list, and the fact that half of those listed above are over 25 suggests that this is not a wholly new phenomenon.

However, having so many homegrown strikers leading the line for their clubs – and leading the way in the scoring charts – is certainly a recent development.

Indeed, as recently as April 2010 the reputation of Japanese strikers was far less flattering, and in an interview with the then-Kawasaki Frontale striker Chong Tese, a common perception of the nation’s front-men was aired

“Japanese forwards are not like forwards, they are like midfielders,” the North Korean international told me. “It looks like they don’t want to score goals.

“The most important thing for a forward is to be an egoist,” he continued. “If you have five opportunities and only get one goal that is ok. The other four times everyone expresses their disappointment with you but the forward only needs to get the one goal.”

And thanks, I believe, to two interconnected reasons it looks like this way of thinking is finally being embraced on a wider scale by the nation’s goal-getters.

The first contributing factor is the wonderful desire and ability of the Japanese to fine-tune and perfect things.

Japanese teams were producing plenty of Captain Tsubasa-inspired assist merchants, but the absence of anybody to put the chances away meant there was an aspect to be worked at and tweaked.

This goal was undoubtedly assisted as the image of ‘the striker’ started to shift, with the influence of foreign players, both positive and negative, also aiding the process.

The likes of Leo Messi and David Villa have proven that you don’t need to be 180cm and 80kg to be a centre-forward so more Japanese players, who ordinarily are neither of these things, are starting to be given chances and, more importantly, to believe they can play up-front.  

Initially J.League clubs assumed they needed a Brazilian to spearhead the attack but as many of these imports turned out to be well below par – and, of course, the money that attracted them moved to the Middle East – chances have started to be handed to homegrown talent instead.

Playing alongside the better foreign players to come to these shores and taking the positives from their styles and mental approaches has also benefited this generation of players, so too the increasing visibility of international leagues.  

Yuji Ono – who along with Kensuke Nagai, Genki Omae and Hidetaka Kanazono is another of the new breed of aggressive, goal-hungry strikers – made this clear when I interviewed him at the start of the season.

“The reason that so many young players like myself are playing now,” he explained, “is because, unlike before, we can watch foreign football on TV.”

It is now possible to study the technique of the best forwards in the world and to fashion your own style from their best bits. Tadanari Lee is another who has developed in this way, listing Raul, Filippo Inzaghi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dennis Bergkamp as the players he tries to learn from.

This diligent approach has undoubtedly helped the Japanese striker out of its shell, but for the species to continue its evolution it may soon be time to set the DVDs aside.

Centre-forward is the position which most demands the ability to be unpredictable and spontaneous. Having proven that they have the instincts, then, it is now time for the home-grown No. 9s to start trusting in them.




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