YOKOHAMA – Gamba Osaka captain Yasuhito Endo was named the 2014 J. League Player of the Year on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Japan midfielder helped engineer the biggest turnaround in league history, Gamba erasing a 14-point deficit to finish one point ahead of Urawa Reds to capture their second championship and first since 2005.
Endo appeared in all 34 games and scored six goals in winning his first season MVP for Gamba, who were in the relegation zone at 16th going into the World Cup break. But after the restart, Kenta Hasegawa’s side was a different team, winning 15 of 20 games and losing just twice.
“I’m not that big on individual awards because this is, after all, a team sport,” said Endo, who is the second Gamba player to capture the honor after Araujo in 2005. “But I suppose this means that a lot of people appreciate what I do, so it’s a nice feeling.
“I wasn’t thinking about the award at all. I thought it would be someone from Gamba, Reds or Kashima (Antlers) but that’s about it. The best thing is that everyone on the team was able to come here to be honored as champions.
“I’ll turn 35 in another month, but I want to keep proving that age has nothing to do with football. There are many wonderfully talented players in our league, but I don’t want to lose out to them.”
On top of the league title, Endo led Gamba to Nabisco Cup glory and can complete the treble with victory over the second division’s Montedio Yamagata in the Emperor’s Cup final on Saturday.
If they beat Montedio at Nissan Stadium, Gamba would join Antlers as the only two teams to sweep the three major domestic trophies.
Endo was chosen from 32 nominees, who were voted in by the coaches and players of the 18 J1 clubs. A league selection panel picked the winner from the nominees.
“We’ll be going into the Emperor’s Cup final feeling pretty good about ourselves,” he said. “We definitely want to win the treble and end the season on a good note.”
“We’ve managed to come this far because each and every one of us wanted to get better. We just need to worry about going into the next game in the best condition we can possibly be in.
“I had a forgettable time at the World Cup in Brazil this summer. That painful experience made me want to become an even better player.”
Endo, the most capped Japan player of all time with 148, was also selected to the Best XI for a record 11th time. He was joined by teammates Takashi Usami and Patric, who were both chosen for the first time.
Also in the league’s all-first team were: Kawasaki Frontale striker Yoshito Okubo, who netted 18 in 32 games to win the golden boot for the second straight year.
Alongside Endo in midfield were Leo Silva of Albirex Niigata, Yoshinori Muto of FC Tokyo and Kashima Antlers’ Gaku Shibasaki. Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Tsukasa Shiotani and the Tokyo duo of Kosuke Ota and Masato Morishige made up the defense, while Urawa Reds’ Shusaku Nishikawa was picked in goal for the third straight year.
Hasegawa was named Manager of the Year, and Kashima’s Daigo Nishi won the newly created Goal of the Year award with his 25-meter volley from a corner on Aug. 2 at home to Hiroshima.
Yuichi Nishimura, who stirred controversy in the opening match of the World Cup by awarding Brazil a penalty against Croatia, was Referee of the Year.