Kohei Kato vowed to show his worth to coach Vahid Halilhodzic after the Bulgarian-based midfielder received a surprise call-up to Japan’s 25-man squad ahead of a friendly against Syria and 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Iraq.
“I’m genuinely happy (with the call-up) but the battle starts here,” Kato said Friday at Haneda airport. I’m looking forward to see how much I can do at a high level.”
The 27-year-old, who played for the youth team at JEF United Chiba, had a brief spell in the Argentine fourth tier before returning home to join Machida Zelvia in J2 in 2012.
But his career took an unusual path from there, winning the league in Montenegro, having a spell in Poland before arriving at his current club Beroe Stara Zagora.
Kato, who thrives in breaking up the attack in a defensive midfield role, says the experience overseas — which included a fan with a hunting rifle barging into his team’s dressing room while in Argentina — will all serve him in good stead, and possibly those players seeking different careers in the sport.
“I have the confidence from having played in different environments,” said the Wakayama native. “I want to show what I have whatever circumstances I’m in.
“With me getting into the national team, I hope it provides other players the option to seek a path abroad even if they can’t make it in Japan.”