Caption: Tabuan U18 in a group photo with Kashima Antlers' coaches. Picture: Courtesy of NFABD
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TWO former Kashima Antlers players were impressed with the standard of play displayed by the Tabuan U18 players they trained yesterday.
Club ambassador Koji Nakata and academy coach Akira Narahashi, both seasoned former Japanese internationals who have represented their country at the World Cup, were in the country as part of the J.League Football Clinic - an exchange program the J.League initiated with Asian countries.
With 18 trophies to their name, defending J.League champions Kashima Antlers are Japan’s most successful team - having won the J.League a record eight times, the Emperor Cup four times and the J.League Cup a record six times.
They also created history in December when they became the first Asian side to reach the final of the Club World Cup, losing 4-2 to European champions Real Madrid after extra-time.
Former defenders Nakata and Narahashi trained the national Under-18 team for one and a half hours at the artificial turf at NFABD House yesterday morning, conducting a series of drills and exercises before joining the players in a match.
“They were very positive in training, and that was good to see... I liked their attitude,” said Nakata, a two-time World Cup player who represented Japan at the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea and the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“At the moment, it is difficult to compare the standard of these players to that in Japan as we have different sport cultures.
“The kids in Japan are taught how to play at an early age, and that is not the case here.
“But they have a bright future, and with more international exchange programs like these, I am sure these boys can improve a lot,” added Nakata, a 47-cap player who has also laced up for Olympique Marseille in France and FC Basel in Switzerland.
Narahashi was just as pleased with what he saw.
The 45-year-old, who played for Japan when they made their World Cup debut at the 1998 edition in France, said that it was important the players set goals as it would help them in their development.
“They are a lot better than I expected because heading into this clinic, I had no idea what to expect,” he said.
“It is good to see these boys play well with the ball, so I am pleasantly surprised.
“To improve further, I think the team needs a specific goal and a target - which will help in them in their development.
“There are a lot of talented kids here, and there has to be a whole system and structure set up to help them achieve their goals.
“It is very important they set a specific target - like how Japan set a target of competing in the World Cup for the first time in 1998, which we did,” said Narahashi, who earned 40 caps.
The J.League Football Clinic exchange program allows Japanese coaches to share their expertise with their Asian neighbours, and according to Kashima Antlers’ Marketing Group manager Yohei Kasuga, the league has gone to 10 countries so far.
“The J.League has sent clubs to other countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Laos… But we wanted to come to Brunei because we have had previous communications with DPMM FC,” he explained.
“We know that Brunei football is still developing, so we wanted to come here because we felt it would be more of a challenge.
“We are came here because we want these players to believe. If they can dream it, they can do it,” said Kasuga, who acted as a translator for Nakata and Narahashi.
The coaches conducted another training session with DPMM FC players later in the day.