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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Japan’s youth set up comprises clubs, schools, universities

Effort is made to have Japan Football Association and clubs on the same page, says Japan’s U17 coach Yoshiro Moriyama. The team lost to England in the Round of 16 at the FIFA U-17 World Cup

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 18, 2017 19:59 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,Japn football team
Japan played valiantly against England but lost in penalties in a Round of 16 match at FIFA U-17 World Cup.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Yoshiro Moriyama has fun at media conferences and his witticisms spark a ripple of laughter through the Japanese media contingent. The humour is usually lost in translation but when Hindustan Times asked him to talk about Japan’s youth development, he smiled and held up three fingers. “Three hours,” is what he would need, said the Japan coach.

And even though his wasn’t the last team standing after Tuesday’s tie-breakers, by taking England to the distance, Japan showed how far they have come in little over two decades. Ability matched agility as Japan sacrificed possession, absorbed the pressure and gave back as good as they got deep into the pre-quarter final.

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“The responsibility of developing players lies with academies at J-League clubs but the Japan Football Association (JFA) and the league are always on the same page. The clubs have a high standard of coaching and our job at JFA is to let players experience international football. We have at least one national team activity each month and after each of these, we share information with all the club coaches to ensure continuity,” said Moriyama here on Monday.

This is part of what Japan calls the ‘Trinitarian Strengthening Plan’ which, according to the JFA website, is a combination of three things: enhancing the national team, working on youth development and getting coaches to interact with each other regularly. The plan also seeks to stop national team imitating other countries and work on Japanese’s strengths such as agility and tenacity to work around their lack of size.

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Apart from the J-League clubs, there are local clubs such as Kyoto Sanga FC, from where skipper Shimpei Fukuoaka got selected, and Mitsubishi Yowa SC, which has hattrick scorer Keito Nakamura on its roster, who contribute to developing teens. There is also a vibrant high-school and university circuit. The clubs, high schools and universities play an annual tournament. There are many tournaments for the youth, said a journalist here for the under-17 World Cup. And many private academies, he added. JFA has also set up academies in Fukushima, Shizuoka, Sakai and Kumamoto.

A club like Cerezo Osaka, now fifth in the standings, has two under-18 teams, three under-15 teams and three under-12 sides apart from a semi-professional under-23 team and the senior team, said another journalist. Till you are eight, players are allowed to have fun, after that coaching starts, he said.

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This year, Japan under-13 and under-14 boys played tournaments in Spain, UAE and Netherlands, according to the JFA website. The coaching guidelines for under-6 to under-16 were laid down in 2004 and is an important step in Japan’s target of being one of the world’s top 10 teams. They are 44th in October’s Fifa rankings.

First Published: Oct 18, 2017 14:55 IST