Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

My Favorite Soccer Team: Japan’s U17s

October 21st, 2013 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, UAE, World Cup

I love, love, love Japan’s team at the Fifa Under 17 World Cup, being held at the moment in the UAE.

The Japanese are quite good. A 1-0 victory over Russia, the European champion; a 3-1 victory over Venezuela. Their place in the final 16 is assured.

But I like them for far more than skill.

They play hard.

These guys are moving, moving, moving all the time — and almost all of the time towards the goal. They ran Russia into the ground. They are in such fine physical shape, and their technical skills are so advanced, that they can hold the ball seemingly at will. Imagine Barcelona of a few years ago. And they have retained their shape even in an environment that has been hot and humid.

I like that they are deep.

Their first XI in the win over Russia? Eight new guys went in as starters against Venezuela tonight, and they won by a wider margin. The tiny kid who scored the goal against Russia doesn’t even have a club connection; he represents his high school.

I like that they are respectful.

When a player is taken off the pitch — substituted — the player leaving the game runs to the sideline (even when his team is ahead), greets his replacement, turns on the touch line and bows towards the referee.

I love that they are not cynical.

Even at this level, most of the players already have absorbed the gamesmanship and, well, attempted cheating that is rampant through much of the world. The diving, the fake-agony-rolling, the demands for yellow cards on their opponents. This acting is common, and perhaps taught (which is even more depressing), especially in teams from Latin America and North Africa and the whole of the Middle East. I have seen lots of writhing in this tournament, but no serious injuries from the guys who act like that have been shot. Also, the time-wasting when ahead; it is quite common in this tournament and always repulsive. Flopping just to chew up time; goaltenders are some of the worst about this, because they know referees rarely will send them off on a stretcher. It is infuriating to watch this behavior already so ingrained in teenage players.

Japan’s players never do that, even though they are hacked down by cruder opponents regularly. Their guys bounce up and get back to work. They apparently trust that officials will make the correct call — without all the fakery.

Japan’s team is a gust of fresh air blowing through the tournament. Team-oriented, small but skilful, polite, fair, good sportsmen.

The average height of their players seems to be about 5-foot-7, and the guy who scored the winning goal against Russia appears to be about 5-foot-4.

But they play the game right. I’m not sure if the senior team is quite this delightful, not having seen them in a few years, but I am a huge fan of this U17 team.

I hope they win the tournament, and I hope some players and coaches and fans from more cynical soccer-playing regions see how the Japanese do it.

The right way.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment