Hey FC Tampa Bay Fans,
Konnichi wa from Tokyo, Japan. The J-league is arguably the quickest and most technical league in the world. Japan for me was a no brainier when I was making a decision of where to train in our off season to prepare for next year.
I came to Japan as part of my learning process in the world of soccer, both as a player and as a coach. I have been in Japan for a little over two weeks now training with the various teams Japan has to offer. The level and intensity here is beyond what I imagined. Every player is just as technical and just as quick as me which I am not used to. The style of play is massively different from our style of soccer. Everything is combination play (perhaps too much), very few balls crossed in, not a physical battle in the air, and the ball never stops moving, because you not only have one but two or three players pressuring at a time. I am amazed at the talent and the intelligence each player possesses. Now I can really see the reason Yama is the player he is, and this was the reason I came to Japan in the first place to learn and become a better all around footballer.
The first two days of training were lightning quick as I merely just fit in as a player. I was playing very simple, trying to get used to the immense non-stop pressure in the tight areas we were confined in. On day 3 the coaches seemed to take notice that I started to implement my own style of play, scoring a goal and getting a pair of assists in the team scrimmage. In the short span of time I have been playing here I have already taken in more than I expected. I can already feel my level of play rising on both sides of the play - defensively and offensively. The training sessions are very well coached and though there has been a language barrier the players and coaches have been speaking broken English enough for me to understand the drills meanings. Everything is tight and basically no big field play its all boxes and about transitioning on both sides of the ball. The players are very respectful to the coaches and each other. Every day you greet each member of the team saying "ohayo gozaimasu" (good morning) as you walk in the locker room. Every time a goal needs to be moved each individual of the team will move the goal together as a team. Everything is like a bonding environment, and it shows in the way they play. No player ever stops on any given play, a bad turnover, a missed finish for a goal, a trap in the air, if they make a mistake there is no throwing your hands up or stopping on the play the only thing that goes through their mind is how they are going to get the ball back. That's the way it is supposed to be, hard working, intense, and always thinking about the next play, not thinking about what you should have done. That's the way I expect myself, my teammates and players I coach to play.
Lucky enough for me Takuya Yamada, or as we call him Yama, has been a more than gracious host. I have been living with him at his place as I have been training with multiple teams. I had no clue how well known Yama was over here but after being stopped by people on the street for autographs and taking pictures with families, to meeting famous singers, comedians and boxers that I realized he is basically a celebrity. Today Yama and I headed to the gym for some boxing training and we ended up meeting and training side by side with the world champion Uchiyama. This guy was a machine, I was overwhelmed at the power and precision of each punch just working for hours, I can see why he is the Champ. Yama has been boxing everyday and I join him if I am not warn out from practice in the morning session. It feels like I am back in pre-season already with the multiple workouts at the highest level.
As if Yama hasn't been doing enough, he has been kind enough to show me around all of Tokyo to learn a little bit more of the culture here. The city is just enormous, it reminds me of Times Square in New York only 10 times as broad. I have been eating a lot of bizarre foods as of part of the culture experience. Raw liver, kidney, heart, guts, and scorpions are just a few of the varieties of strange and intense foods I have endured throughout my stay. Surprisingly none have been too horrible and not half bad. Other than that the food has been amazing, every restaurant seems to be better then the last. The amount of people in such small areas here just amazes me. Every sidewalk, train station, road, store is just jammed packed with people. Luckily, most the people are just as small as me and I can see over them to find my way around, which is a new ordeal for me.
I will keep all you fans posted and up to date on my Japanese excursion. Until then I will continue to work and train hard to prepare for a great season with FCTB. Thank you to all the loyal fans who stuck with us this season and look forward to winning a championship with your support.