◆Tamada Minoru, Chief Executive Officer and President
“Hello, everyone. Today marks the start of the 2017 season, and with the support of many fans and sponsors, we are able to begin the 2017 season on the J1 stage, which I am very happy and grateful to announce. My gratitude goes out to everyone.
This is the first time we – newly inducted players and staff members included – play in the J1. I believe I mentioned it briefly two years ago, when I first assumed this role, but I would like to once again quickly revisit what I believe Cerezo Osaka stands for as a club.
Originally, with the Yanmar Football club as its base, the club set its sights on becoming the second best club in Osaka and the 13th best in the J-league. The club was renamed “Cerezo Osaka” when it joined the J-league. The pink uniforms, along with the cherry blossom (*cerezo) being Osaka City’s official flower and the flower of Japan was one reason why the team was given that name. A strong desire to represent Osaka, and then Japan, was at the heart of the name. However, in its twenty-year existence, the club has yet to win any titles, except for a JFL championship. I consider this to be the team’s only defect.
This year we will play on the J1 stage, and our aim as a team is to finish in the top nine. Aiming for a single-digit record is our first goal. Another aim is to try to start by working our way toward one of the three championships available to us: the J-league, Emperor’s Cup, J-league YBC Levain Cup.
Then, perhaps in spring, we will begin a fund-raising campaign for the renovation of Kincho Stadium we announced earlier. To this end, we will use another opportunity to announce the fund-raising campaign. However, we are progressing with the target of using the stadium from the end of February or start of March in 2020. As we are renovating the stadium in stages, we are currently expecting to finish with a stadium that holds 30,000 people in 2020. One of the reasons behind the renovations is the increasingly stringent AFC Champions League (ACL) stadium criteria, which relates to requirements around the roof and number of toilets, etc. Since we are renovating our stadium to meet such requirements, we also desire to play in the ACL. If possible, we want to be at a position where we are able to compete for the ACL title, a large goal that we have set ourselves. This goal begins now, in 2017.
Last year our team competed in the J2 under the slogan was “SAKURA SPECTACLE”. During that year our supporters watched in anticipation and excitement, and we started with the intention of getting our fans interested in coming to watch us play. A roller coaster of heart pounding and cold sweat continued, which stopped us from developing the spectacle we had hoped. This year I wish to see our team and club come together, including our new fighting capacity and new staff, to realize the “SAKURA SPECTACLE” in a way that moves the people watching us play and gives our fans a reason to want to watch us, through our compelling, devoted, and serious football. It is with this in mind that we will make our way toward accomplishing the aims I mentioned. That is all I have to say. I thank you and seek your continuing support this year.”
◆Okuma Kiyoshi, Team Executive Manager
“Hello. I thank you for gathering here at such a busy time. I would also like to thank you for the support you showed us that allowed us to get promoted to J1. I am humbly grateful. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation. As the company president mentioned, we had three bitter years, and shared the joy of this promotion with our fans while ingraining the result in our hearts. Since it is difficult to continue to play, compete, and retain one’s place in J1, we are placing a significant amount of importance on making a fresh start with an understanding of how tough things may be. This does not apply simply to the team. The whole club shares these feelings, and I think it is vital that the whole club works toward building up this team. I hope that you will show your support for this season’s new organization.”
◆Yoon Jong-hwan, Manager
“I’m Yoon Jong-hwan, the new manager, and have returned to Cerezo for the first time in 15 years. I’m glad to meet you all. I feel elated and moved about being back here after 15 years. I would like to express my gratitude to Okuma, who helped promote the team from J2 to J1. As he expressed a moment ago, we must play with strong conviction and passion, and I hope to do my best in a way that meets everyone’s expectations.”
◆Lee Sungjae, Coach
“Hello, everyone, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Lee Sungjae.
I’m proud to have come to such a fantastic team. I will give my utmost in supporting the manager, and will strive to achieve good results. Thank you.”
◆Takeda Nobuhiro, GK Coach
“Hello. I’m Takeda, the newly appointed, or I should say reappointed, goalkeeper coach. Playing in the top league in the first time in four years makes me want to help Cerezo make history through daily diligence and by aiming for a high ranking under coach Lee. I hope to do everything in my power while here. Thank you.”
◆Wada Haruki, Trainer
“Hello, I’m Wada Haruki, the team trainer. This is my first year, and under coach Lee I will use my energy and effort to support the team behind the scenes. Thanks.”
◆Oh Onyou, Interpreter
“Hello, my name is Oh Onyou. I’m here to do my utmost as the manager’s interpreter. Thank you.”
◆Martin Williams (Interpreter and Football Operations Group)
“My name is Martin. I’m going to do my best to take care of Matej Jonic’s daily needs while helping him achieve the best results possible on the pitch. Thanks.”
◆22 DF Matej Jonic
“It’s nice to meet you all. My name is Matej Jonic, and I’m from Croatia. I’m very proud to have become a part of Cerezo Osaka. I’m very grateful to everyone, and am excited to be playing here. I’m going to give my all during training and matches in order to contribute to the team. Thank you.”
◆1 GK Kakoi Kentaro
“I’m Kankoi Kentaro, and I have moved here from FC Tokyo. I studied at Momoyama Gakuin University, and so spent four years here in Osaka, which makes me happy to have been able to join Cerezo Osaka. I will work hard every day to make the team victorious. Thanks.”
◆16 MF Mizunuma Kota
“Hello. I’m Mizunuma Kota from FC Tokyo. Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m happy to have joined Cerezo, and would like to express my thanks for inviting me become a team member. As it has been a while since Cerezo played in J1, I’m extremely grateful to be a part of the team, and hope to bring to the team everything I have to offer. I’m going to do my best to achieve our targets and bring the team together. Thank you.”
◆17 MF Fukumitsu Takaki
“Hello, everyone. I’m Fukumitsu Takaki from Renofa Yamaguchi FC. This is my first time in J1, and hope to meet the challenge. Thank you.”
◆25 MF Yamauchi Hirofumi
“Hello, everyone. I’m Yamauchi Hirofumi from Waseda University. I’m thrilled and proud to be starting my life as a professional footballer at the brilliant Cerezo. However, our road starts here, and I would like to appear on the J1 pitch as soon as possible, in order to get my teammates’ recognition, and hope to start with the basics. Thank you.”
◆29 DF Funaki Kakeru
“Hello. My name is Funaki Kakeru and I was promoted to this team from the Cerezo Osaka U-18 side. I’ve been playing for Cerezo since I was very young, and so am very happy to be able to become a professional footballer at Cerezo. Firstly, I’d like to devote all my energies to training while aiming to make some appearances in matches. Thanks.”
◆30 MF Oyama Musashi
“Hello. I’m Oyama Musashi from Sapporo Ohtani High School. I’m going to use my abilities in order to appear in matches and try my hardest to contribute to the team. Thank you!”
◆31 FW Yamane Towa
“Hello. I’m Yamane from the Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth. I’m going to dedicate myself 100% to daily training in order to make it into the top team as soon as possible. Thanks.”
◆36 MF Onozawa Toshiki
“Hello. I’m Onozawa Toshiki, and I have been promoted from the Cerezo Osaka U-18 team. As this marks my entry into life as a professional, I would like to work hard every day with a sense of responsibility, awareness, and gratitude. Thank you.”
◆37 DF Morishita Reiya
“Hello. I’m Morishita Reiya, and I was promoted from the U-18 Cerezo Osaka side. I’d like to utilize my abilities so that I can play on the top team. Thanks.”
◆45 GK Mogi Shu
“Hi, everyone. My name is Mogi Shu, and I came from Toko Gakuen High School. I want to contribute to the team as soon as possible by playing in matches. Thanks.”
Q：Kakitani Yoichiro said about you that “the genius that played in the top team while I was on the U-18 side has returned”. Could you tell us once again how it feels to be back at your old home of Cerezo?
●Manager Lee Sungjae
“As I mentioned a moment ago, I am extremely happy to be back. I’m very grateful to the president and Okuma for calling me back. There are many emotions I’d like to express, but the first and foremost of those are my feelings of joy. Along with a feeling of responsibility, I feel that I want to lead the team skillfully. The fact that many things change with each passing year cannot be helped. However, this season we are able to compete in J1, and we have young players. Of course, training will continue to be tough and strict. That said, I want to try my best to make both life and training fun everyone on the team.”
Q: When you watched some matches toward the end of the last season what impression did you have of the team?
●Manager Lee Sungjae
“Firstly, I was able to see how passionate Okuma is. I also saw the players fighting for a place in J1, their spirit as the moved about the pitch. Though the team had pulled together many talented footballers, I feel this team is still young.”
Q: What about the team do you find “young”?
“Compared to other top-ranking J1 clubs, the flow of their game lacks management skills. Of course, there are players who have experience playing in J1. However, I believe the team still lacks the ability to continually carry a match. That said, they played well to the very end, and were able to create for themselves an opportunity to compete in J1, which is a great things in and of itself.”
Q：When you managed Tosu, you built a style based on solid defense and swift attacking. Could you tell us what style of football you aim to create with Cerezo this season?
“This doesn't only go for me, but managers at other clubs will also start by developing their team’s defense. Bolstering defense is an obvious place to start. Doing so rests not only on the defenders, but should be done with all eleven players on the pitch directing their minds [to defense]. I’m thinking of strengthening our defense, and once that has been done properly, to develop our attacking. Of course, a football match cannot be won solely through defense. I’m also considering working on our attack.”
Q：A moment ago, you said that you would be tough on the players during training. On the second day since starting, you have planned three types of training. How do you see yourself changing the team?
“To start with, there are plenty of young players, and I believe it’s important to raise their awareness as professionals. So, we have to make sure everything is in order, starting with their lifestyles. That is why we will begin training early in the morning. Of course, we won’t only be running. One aim is to bring back a daily rhythm as professionals, and since we still have some time until our first match, we have physical and strategy (training). In order to do this, we’ve increased our training hours a little and set up three types of training.”
Q：You said you’re going to begin by working on the team’s defense. Last season the team conceded 46 goals in 42 matches, a weak performance. How do you plan to resolve that?
“I definitely think there were problems. However, the team gained a place in J1, which is a great achievement. Everyone worries about the number of goals the team conceded, and I do plan to make improvements. I’m also thinking of developing a team that scores fantastic goals. Lastly, there are many good players on this side, which means there is a good possibility that we will be able to show everyone some brilliant football.”
Q：On the team there are players such as Yamaguchi Hotaru, Kakitani Yoichiro, and Kim Jin-yyeon, who are aiming for a place in the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup. What do you expect from these players?
“For starters, I would like our players to put on some fantastic games for everyone … However, focusing on individual players can put a dent in our teamwork. I’m convinced our players are of the same opinion. If our players perform with their team in mind, then their capabilities will improve, and we will be able to produce results. Going into this job, I’m placing my faith in the all the players, not just the three footballers you mentioned.”
Q：As the manager of this club, could you give us some insights into the team’s goals for the season?
“We have yet to secure a title. During my three years playing for the team, we finished second … However, I’m not set on winning a title this year. This season we have to secure a spot in the middle ranks of the J1-league. Instead of finishing in the double-digit ranks, we would like to be placed in the top ten – and I have set 9th place as a goal for the team. We have plenty of games to play in April and May, and if we are in a better position by the June interval, I will ask more of our team and aim for a higher ranking in the league.”
Q：With the chance to compete in the J1 once again this year, the majority of the team’s key players have remained with the club. Could you tell us what you think of that?
●Okuma Kiyoshi, Team Executive Manager
“By some coincidence in the Emperor’s Cup we faced Tosu. Though we lost the match, we had something close to a turnover of players, where we considered our schedule and allowed young players to play, and I was convinced that things could have worked out had we changed our players in the second half. Firstly, I believe we benefited from the two years of my involvement as a base that I have now passed on to Lee. In order to build up a team composed of that squad, Lee and I discussed the team and agreed that we had to retain the players we needed. If that had been done half-heartedly, we would have created a situation where new players would be overprotected and mired in contract conditions, it would have cost us financially, not to mention the difficulty of finding fresh talent. We need to start by building up Cerezo, and I had the desire to do my best to keep the players we required. Frankly, though there was some competition, there are plenty of talented players who decided to stay with the side because of their feelings toward the Cerezo we had built. Even Souza, who joined us last year, developed a love for Cerezo that has kept him with the club. I believe that in itself is quite a feat.
To add to that, as I asked just a moment ago, is there a way to cover those deficiencies that Lee mentioned? In order to realize the club’s goals and Lee’s vision of the football we’ll play, I provided my full support while discussing various points with him.”
Q：When it comes to strengthening the side, what are you aims, considering the addition of Jonic to a problematic defense and Mizunuma and Fukumitsu, both attackers who were under the guidance of Lee while at Tosu?
“Jonic is now 25 years old and comes from Eastern Europe (Croatia), and learnt a lot while playing in the Korean K-League. Based on his young age, originally, Lee and I would want to play 4-man (defensive line), which means playing with a team of skillful defenders. In Japan it isn’t easy to get a good center back transfer. His age was one of the factors that motivated us when discussing his transfer to our team. I’m of the same mind as Lee: we won’t rely simply on his defensive capabilities, as we have Souza on the wing… we want to start by focusing fully on our team’s defense.
As for Mizunuma and Fukumitsu, in my case I used Kenyu (Sugimoto) in center left. However, after speaking to Lee I realize that he is more than able to play as a forward. We hope to use his multitalented abilities to thicken our team in midfield. Furthermore, Lee noted that the team holds the ball too much and rarely ever ends a play with a cross. This will help strengthen our ability to achieve that.
Mizunuma shares strong similarities with Lee’s style of football, which means he works hard when times get tough, and he helped build Tosu and has an emotional bond with Lee. For that reason, the things they share will have a spillover effect on many of the other players, which has strengthened the team further.”
Q：Speaking about your own style of football and strengths, what would you like us to watch out for?
“As I don’t like to talk about what I can do in front of others, I’ll let you judge for yourselves. However, as a center back, I find that I play my best on the right, and am good at positioning myself and reading a game. I hope to use those strengths in the matches.”
“Being a goalkeeper, I would first and foremost like to dedicate myself to defending the goal. That goes not only for my playing, but also coaching. I would like to grow, not just as a goalkeeper, but as a professional and as an athlete. Thank you.”
“I would like you to keep an eye on my crosses, which are my specialty, and energy on the field. Though I’ve only spent about two years playing under Lee, there was plenty to learn, and we shared a lot. I’d like to try to fit myself somewhere between the new and established players. Communication is also a key strength of mine. I hope to quickly help turn this team into a great side by talking to everyone while on the pitch.”
“I play on the second row in midfield and am good at dashing from the second row and pressing the front lines. What I would like you to look out for the most is my assist passes, which I hope will be of use to the team during matches.”
“To start with, at university I learnt how to run and dedicate myself to a team, and see that as my strength. As a striker, results are required of me, and I hope to bring out my powerful shooting to help the team.”
“My sales point is my ability to energetically join in an offensive play. I’d also like you to see my accurate lefty shots. Though I’m a side back, I’m going to try my best to achieve the results the team deserves.”
“I’m confident in my speed on the field. So, I hope to use my speed to propel myself up the pitch during games.”
“Since I’m a forward I’m going to work hard to score goals and try hard to get our team points.”
“I want to use my energy to create chances in front of the goal and score myself. That’s my strength. I’m also good at giving my all for the team.”
“As I’m a defender, I think about keeping the number of goals we concede to a minimum, and would like you to keep an eye out for my long-range kicks using both legs.”
“I’d like to show you some passionate football from the back of the pitch, and would also like you to watch out for the way I use my height and left leg to kick during matches.”
Q：You’ve played with Kakitani Yoichiro on the Japan national squad at different age groups and say that you look forward to playing with him again. Could you tell me how you feel about being on the same team. Also, please take us back to the three part training you underwent before your camp at Tosu while you were playing under Lee Sungjae.
“I’ve known Yoichiro for over ten years, but I never expected to be on the same team as him, and never thought I would play for Cerezo… However, we are on the same team, we spend time together at the club house, and we just had something to eat together. Our strengths haven’t changed, we are simply playing with each other for the first time in a while, and are aware of what the other wants to do and is capable of doing. Since we are friends who improved in the game together, there’s an element of real excitement for me. It’s not just Yoichiro, though, as there are lots of other players here who I know, which has made it easier for me to join this team. As for the three part training, everyone says it’s tough. However, the only tough thing about it is waking up early in the morning, and once you wake up the ball gets rolling. Lee also approached me and said, “it’s not that tough, is it?” (laughs). Come tomorrow morning, I’d like to tell myself that it isn’t that tough and work hard before the sun rises.”