• Kyodo News


Former Japan and AS Roma star Hidetoshi Nakata thinks Japan plays soccer like a computer and reckons the national team’s speedy, passing game can only take it so far on the world stage.

“When I watch (Japan) it’s like watching soccer on a computer game and in a way that is typically Japanese,” Nakata said in a recent interview.

“Japan’s specialty is not strength in one-on-one situations but agility and doing a lot of running. Sure, that can work on the world stage but what happens when you play a team that you can’t match for speed in man-to-man situations? That is something that still needs to be worked on.”

Once Japan’s most recognizable player, Nakata hung up his boots after the 2006 World Cup in Germany and has since been involved in charity and social work around the globe.

His latest project is “Take Action FC” — a team of retired J. League players he recently formed to take part in exhibition matches and soccer clinics across Japan with the aim of revitalizing local communities through the game.

Formed in January, Nakata’s Take Action Foundation plans to present soccer balls to children around the world with proceeds from matches.

Take Action FC played its first match against a local club, Ventforet Kofu’s reserves, in Nakata’s hometown of Kofu on April 12, and Nakata appeared to have lost none of his passion for the game, even admitting he occasionally toys with the idea of coming out of retirement.

“When we lost against Kofu, I thought ‘this can’t be right,’ and I think there is a part of me that doesn’t like to just accept it. Whoever you play against, you never want to lose. I play with the same spirit I had when I was an active player.

“Of course there are times when I think about it (making a comeback), but I like creating the things I am doing now and not dwelling on it.”

Nakata says he has signed up around 40 players and hopes to increase the number and make matches a regular event.

“At the moment there are 30 or 40 players registered. That could become 100 or 200. We could, for example, hold events simultaneously in two different regions or something like that, hold them every month perhaps.

“It would be fun if people thought of it as a once-in-a-lifetime thing and wanted to bring the event to their area, and have maybe the whole village turn up for it.”

Nakata, a native of Yamanashi Prefecture, began his professional career in 1995 at J. League club Bellmare Hiratsuka and moved to Italian side Perugia shortly after making his World Cup debut in the 1998 tournament in France.

He also had stints in the Italian first division with Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina before playing for English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers in the 2005-2006 season, scoring one goal in 21 league matches.

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