ACL Winner Soma Takahito Speaks Portugese Futbol
Former AFC Champions League & J.League winner, Soma Takahito was in town! Junpiter Futbol met up with this Japanese midfielder for a coffee as he spoke about his European adventure with Primeira Liga’s CS Maritimo
Former AFC Champions League & J.League winner, Soma Takahito was in town! Junpiter Futbol met up with this Japanese midfielder for a coffee as he spoke about his European adventure with Primeira Liga’s CS Maritimo and Bundesliga’s FC Energie Cottbus and as well as his current club, Vissel Kobe!
JPF: You have won both the J.League and AFC Champions League with Urawa Reds previously. In your opinion, what is one big difference of playing in the domestic league and Champions League?
ST: One big difference has to be the playing environment. As you know, supporters in the Stadium do make us feel motivated. In our domestic league, we will have ten over thousands of supporters cheering the team on. Even if it is an away game in another town or prefecture, we would still be playing in Japan and there would still be supporters cheering us. But playing away games in AFC Champions League, the environment can be hostile and sometimes even lonely. There might not be any Japanese supporter in certain countries which we are playing.
JPF: Although you have donned the jerseys of Tokyo Verdy and currently Vissel Kobe, you have actually achieved the most during your time at Urawa Reds. What do you think about those days at Urawa Reds?
ST: My time at Urawa Reds could probably be the most glorious era in Urawa Reds’ history. We won the J.League and AFC Champions League titles. We even won the Emperor’s Cup! We had tremendous support from not only the supporters, big sponsors also came along and supported the team. Together with the rest of my team mates, all of us worked very hard for the team’s success. There is obviously a different style of management at the club right now. I wouldn’t say it’s not positive, but definitely it’s a different style of management compared to my time with Urawa Reds.
Photo from Urawa-Reds.co.jp
JPF: How was the experience of playing in Europe since you have played for Portuguese Maritimo and German Energie Cottbus?
ST: Prior to my move to Europe, I did receive an offer to stay in the J.League. However, I wanted to continue to challenge myself and I knew Europe would have to be my next destination. During my time in Portugal, I have played against some big names like Brazil’s Ramires (Chelsea), Pablo Aimar (Johor Darul Taksim) and many more. And you know, only by playing these big names would you then improve. Ironically, the playing environment in Bundesliga Division 2 was much better than in Portugal but personally I felt that I did not play to my full potential.
JPF: Was it a challenging journey for you playing in Europe?
ST: Well, as far as food is concerned I had no issue. However, communication was certainly one of the most challenging obstacles I faced. I could recall a training stint at a small island just between Morocco and South Africa – The people there spoke no English and to make it worse for me, they spoke in their native dialect! I didn’t even understand what they were asking during the interview – it was quite embarrassing!
Photos by mediadb.kicker.de (top) & fupa.net (below)
JPF: You were once called up to Japan National Team?
ST: That was in year 2007 when I was called up for training. Japan was preparing for the Kirin Cup then. Unfortunately, I got injured during a training session and never make the final cut.
JPF: Do you think you still have what it takes to be called up to the National Team?
ST: As a professional footballer, I would still want to do my best in my game to earn a call-up to represent my country. No doubt on that.
JPF: Japan has been grouped together with Colombia, Greece and Ivory Coast in Group-C of the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014. What do you think of Japan’s chances of progressing from the group stage?
ST: I don’t think Japan is grouped in a tough group unlike Spain or Brazil. I think Japan still stands a relatively good chance of progressing if they play well.
Photos from Vissel Kobe website
JPF: Any specific Japanese player in the current Japan squad whom you think will play a key role for the team in this World Cup campaign?
ST: AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda. Hopefully he can quickly adapt to his new club’s environment as European football will be good for his development which in terms will also benefit Japan’s play. I believe he could be the person who can lead Japan with his confidence.
JPF: How much do you know about Singapore football?
ST: I have been here once a couple of years back and now I am here again. From what I know, Singapore is small and probably that’s why Singapore does not set a very high expectation in football. Therefore, the standard of the play here is not that strong at the moment. I believe if one of these days Singapore can groom a superstar in football, this superstar should be able to lead by example and raise the entire level of football standard here in Singapore. Singapore has to work harder.
JPF: What are your hopes for 2014?
ST: I hope to continue to do well with Vissel Kobe this coming season. If we want to progress to Asian level, we will have to maintain our current standard.
JPF: Any advice for young players who aspire to be a good footballer like you?
ST: When I was young, I learned football through participating in many selection trials and trainings. Nowadays, apart from that, young players can also learn a lot from watching English Premier League football on the television. However, one key thing to do is to train with the ball. So learn as much as you can and train hard on the pitch!