With just half a year to go until the Summer Olympics, Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu is running out of time and sympathy.
Moriyasu, the first coach to take charge of both the Samurai Blue and Olympic squads since Philippe Troussier in 1999, has come under fire following Japan’s disastrous AFC U-23 Championship campaign in Thailand.
Reaction from fans and media has been swift and merciless following defeats against Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as a draw with Qatar. Many have called for the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima manager to be dismissed from one — if not both — of his roles.
But with many of the Olympic generation’s top players unavailable for the continental tournament and Japan’s success at Tokyo 2020 seemingly hinging on their performances — as well as those of the crucial overage selections — the Japan Football Association is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding whether to keep Moriyasu in both seats.
“I wanted to see how well the players could perform, but I also wanted to see how assertively and effectively Moriyasu would coach his team in order to win the competition,” wrote former Japan international Masakiyo Maezono on Tuesday for Tokyo Sports.
“If the JFA will give Moriyasu the responsibilities of coaching at the Olympics and qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, they must act decisively as if they are in a lover’s suicide.”
Observers won’t get to see the full capability of Japan’s Olympic squad until March, when Moriyasu will be able to call up a first-strength team for friendlies against South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire.
In addition to players such as Mallorca attacker Takefusa Kubo and Bologna defender Takehiro Tomiyasu, Moriyasu is also considering summoning overage players. Among those said to be in the running are Deportivo midfielder Gaku Shibasaki, Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako and Cercle Brugge defender Naomichi Ueda.
If Moriyasu remains in the role, he’ll be in close quarters with the rest of his national team staff from this spring.
According to a report by Nikkan, the JFA is preparing to relocate coaches and staff in charge of the country’s national teams to JFA Yume Field, the new national training center under construction in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture.
Reysol boss denies scandal
An inquiry at Kashiwa Reysol’s annual fan meeting regarding a potential cover-up of inappropriate conduct by former manager Milton Mendes inspired a firm denial by club president Ryuichiro Takikawa.
During the Jan. 11 meeting, which was attended by 35 supporters according to the club, an unnamed fan asked whether Mendes, who coached just three games at the beginning of the 2016 season before resigning, had in fact been fired as a result of potentially criminal conduct.
Mendes’ name appeared in Brazilian media last November when he was dismissed by his then-club Sao Bento following accusations that he sexually assaulted a hotel employee in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
At the time of his March 2016 resignation, Mendes announced that he was returning to Brazil in order to attend to a family member in poor health.
“There was nothing that required crisis management from our side,” responded Takikawa, according to an edited transcript of the meeting published on Reysol’s official homepage. “We spoke with (Mendes), heard his request to care for his family (in Brazil), and made the decision to cancel his contract. There was no concern about a compliance issue.”
In an audio recording of the fan meeting provided to The Japan Times, Takikawa noted that the club “had concerns” before holding “comprehensive discussions” with the coach, but did not elaborate as to whether those concerns involved Mendes’ performance in the technical area or his conduct off the pitch.
Responding to a follow-up question asking if Mendes had been paid a fee for breach of contract, Takikawa insisted that Mendes’s departure “was a resignation, not a dismissal” and that “generally in that situation, (Mendes) would not receive compensation.”
Ryukyu backs castle rebuild
While fans often consider them no better than a necessary evil, uniform sponsors are the lifeblood of small-market clubs.
That’s what makes FC Ryukyu’s decision to forgo a uniform sponsor for the 2020 season in favor of promoting the reconstruction of Shuri Castle, the Okinawa symbol that burned down last October, even more impressive.
Instead of recent sponsor Senon, the J. League second-division club’s shirts will bear an illustration of Shuri Castle designed by Okinawan illustrator Hideki Shiroma above the word “REVIVE.”
In addition to donating 10 percent of proceeds from sales of the uniform to the Shuri Castle reconstruction fund, Ryukyu also announced plans to hold a charity match in support of the destroyed landmark during the J. League’s Olympic break, which runs from mid-July to mid-August.
A crowdfunding campaign launched by the club had raised nearly ¥2.5 million ($22,720) as of Wednesday afternoon.