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Faces of Football: Japan – a letter to the national team

Dear Japanese national team, 

Hello, my name is Yoshibumi Kagawa. I was born in Barcelona, Spain and I lived in Spain, England, the Netherlands, and Germany until I was 15 years old. I returned to Japan in 1994 and have been a huge fan of the national team ever since. 

The first game I really remember watching was when Japan faced off against the mighty Brazil in 1995 at the old national stadium. My greatest moment as a fan would come just a few short years later when we qualified for our first ever FIFA World Cup. Masayuki Okano’s golden goal which earned Japan qualification to France ‘98 brought me to tears of joy. 

I tried to go to that World Cup in France for the game against Argentina – our first in the competition ever – but due to ticking issues I returned home to Japan without getting to attend. Ever since then I have made a point of going to every World Cup in order to support my country. 

The tournament in Qatar will be the sixth consecutive WC that I’ve been to. At the 2022 World Cup I will be dressed up as our captain Maya Yoshida, armed with a special banner, his name and number on my back and, of course, a captain’s armband. 

Our road to Qatar certainly hasn’t been an easy one, starting out qualification with two defeats in the first three games, but we clawed our way back into contention after that shaky start. I was one of the fortunate few to attend the game in Sydney in which we secured our place at the World Cup – winning 2-0 thanks to two late goals from Kaoru Mitoma. I was even more fortunate to then be given a shirt worn by Yoshida after the game – something I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

Doha, for many Japanese supporters, will bring back some bad memories. The ‘Doha no Higeki’ (Tragedy of Doha) was one of the worst moments in our nation’s proud footballing history, when we conceded an injury time goal to Iraq and missed out on qualification for the 1994 World Cup. 

Moriyasu-san, you were one of the players on the pitch that day, and it feels like destiny that you will be leading the team in Doha. We are hoping that you can write positive history this time and create moments worthy of the name ‘Doha no Kanki’ (Joy of Doha).

We’re in a difficult group with Spain and Germany, but I believe we can cause an upset and do something great this year. 

Sa- Ike Nippon! 

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