Samurai soccer coaches boost the competition

Samurai soccer coaches boost the competition

While Japanese football players continue to head overseas to test their skills, a number of coaches have also recently been taking their acts to distant lands.

This gained attention during the recent Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, when no less than three teams were led by men from Japan.

Once a head coach for the J.League's Omiya Ardija and Ventforet Kofu, among other teams, Toshiya Miura, 51, took the helm of the men's national team of Vietnam in May this year. He also serves as coach of the U-23 national team, which participated in the Asian Games.

"They have a certain level of technique, but many of them are afraid of physical contact and they don't run as much as Japanese players," Miura said of the Vietnamese players. "I'm working to change that."

As he has not been provided with a Japanese interpreter, Miura issues basic instructions in English and generally limits his verbal communication to only the most vital points. Still, his team managed to beat powerful Iran in the group stage in Incheon and make the round of 16.

Masayuki Nagira, who led the Taiwan women's team at the Asian Games, was initially dispatched to Taiwan by the Japan Football Association in 2013 to become the team's goalkeeping coach. He was promoted to coach in February this year.

Although his team lost in the quarterfinals in Incheon, the 56-year-old Nagira has set a lofty goal for Taiwan.

"I want to address various issues, including training for staff and coaches, one at a time to raise the level of the team so it can one day be among the top in Asia," said Nagira, a former goalkeeping coach for the J.League's Yokohama F Marinos.

Jordan women's coach Masahiko Okiyama, 46, had also been dispatched by the JFA, heading to the Middle East nation in 2012 to help strengthen the team.

Both Taiwan and Jordan faced defending champion Nadeshiko Japan in the group stage.

"Taiwan and Jordan are both improving bit by bit," said Nadeshiko Japan coach Norio Sasaki. "If Asian teams get stronger, it will make us stronger, too."

The day seems to be approaching when a team under a Japanese coach will become a rival of Japan.

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