FC Gifu 2014 player of the year…….Keiji Takachi

The readers of this blog agreed with the majority of FC Gifu supporters as both sets of voters chose midfielder Keiji Takachi as the 2014 player of the year.

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For the official prize, he received a cool ¥1,000,000. From me, well…I can’t afford that from this NPO, but I can offer my respect and admiration.

Some eyebrows were raised when he was brought in, including mine. I didn’t know much about  him aside from the fact he was left footed and played usually in a left midfield role for Yokohama FC. Given that we already had Atsushi Mio, I presumed was going to play that role, I wondered why we had brought Takachi in.

It became clear in the first two games why. Takachi was superb in the opening games, providing a link between the midfield and new attack pairing of Naza & Namba. He capped off this impressive introduction with what is commonly known as a “Golazzo” against Kataller Toyama – receiving the ball 40 yards out from goal he performed a drag-back which completely took two defenders out of the equation before slaloming into the box and coolly passing the ball past the keeper.

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Since that start, he has embedded himself in the team, and is almost the first name on the teamsheet when fit. He is the de-facto outfield captain when Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and I get the feeling that he is Ramos’ kind of player. An attack-mided player with a keen eye for a pass/through-ball, Takachi has been a beacon of consistency.

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The softly spoken, thoughtful playmaker has thoroughly deserved this accolade and hopefully he stays around for next year to deliver an encore performance.

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Atsushi Mio’s retirement

I’ve already posted about Kosuke Kitani’s retirement from the game, but the announcement of Atsushi Mio’s retirement came a bit late, but also took me a bit by surprise.

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Mio is only 31, but he missed most of this season with a knee ligament injury and he felt he couldn’t put his knee through the rigour of another J.League season. He joined Gifu in the winter of 2012/2013 from Gainare Tottori and proceeded to play a key role in the team during the 2013 season. Often playing on the left wing or in an advanced midfield position, he lacked the top speed to be a really dangerous attacking threat. But his constant energy, allied to experience and his set piece delivery made him a key cog in the machine.

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In all honesty, he probably should have scored more goals given the quality of his left footed deliveries (I’m not certain if he scored for Gifu) but he was a very popular member of the squad and his professionalism was admired by all those inside the Gifu dressing room.

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His career peak was probably at Gainare Tottori where he helped lead them out of the JFL and into J2, before helping them establish themselves as J2 team. A sign of the affection that he is still held in in Tottori came after Gifu beat them 4-3 in 2013. Despite the defeat, Gainare fans shouted for him to come to the home end and gave him a huge ovation, something that visibly moved Atsushi.

What comes next for Mio? I’m not sure, but I dare say a coaching role is on the horizon for him.  He is vastly experienced despite his relatively young age, and has appeared over 300 times across the J.Leagues. It would be a shame for that not to be passed on. I was lucky enough to speak to him in person, shake his hand, say thanks and wish him a very happy retirement.

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美尾選手、本当にお疲れ様でした!

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“Top of Kita-Alps” winners…….FC Gifu!!

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Since last year, FC Gifu, Kataller Toyama & Matsumoto Yamaga have used their league results against each other to determine who is the top team in the central Japan region. This year, the results have gone as follows:

  • FC Gifu 3-0 Kataller Toyama
  • Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 FC Gifu
  • Kataller Toyama 3-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
  • Kataller Toyama 0-0 FC Gifu
  • Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 Kataller Toyama
  • FC Gifu 3-1 Matsumoto Yamaga

That leaves the final Kita-Alps table looking like:

  • 1. FC Gifu – 7pts
  • 2. Matsumoto Yamaga – 6pts
  • 3. Kataller Toyama – 4pts

It isn’t often FC Gifu win things, so we celebrated this yesterday!!

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Unfortunately, with Matsumoto going up and Toyama going down, this won’t take place next year. Hopefully Kataller come straight back up and we can make it a Tokai-Hokuriku tournament with Zweigen Kanazawa & possibly Nagano Parceiro.

FC Gifu 3-1 Matsumoto Yamaga

FC Gifu turned the form book on its head as they deservedly saw off already promoted Matsumoto on an emotional day by the Nagara river.

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FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Fukaya, Kitani, Sekita, Masuyama, Alex Santos, Henik, Mizuno, Takachi, Namba, Nazarit

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The game was really open from the start, and fans of both clubs were clearly up for it. It was Gifu who drew first blood, and it was a wonder goal from a striker who has shown the midas touch this year. Hiroaki Namba picked the ball up just inside the Matsumoto half and dribbled to around 25 yards out before unleashing an unstoppable blast into the top corner which left Yamaga ‘keeper Murayama glued to the ground. A sensational strike. But as we all know by now, Gifu are most vulnerable after they score and so it proved again as Hiroki Yamamoto latched on to a through ball before placing the ball confidently past Kawaguchi.

It looked as if it was going to be level at half time until Gifu struck in the 45th minute to re-take the lead. Keiji Takachi’s lofted through ball found Nazarit in the box and he did what he does best – namely turn the ball into the net. It was a huge boost to the side to go in the 2nd half in front.

Both sides had chances to score in the opening stages of the second half. Takachi nearly scored a beauty of his own, but his curled shot went over while, at the other end, Takayuki Funayama was denied by a desperate clearance by Namba (of all people!) and Hiroshi Sekita headed just over his own bar.

The crowd got a huge lift in the 70th minute when Atsushi Mio came on in his final home appearance and within a minute of him coming on, Gifu made the game safe through a very unusual source. Keiji Takachi skipped down the wing and when his cross was beaten out to the edge of the area, Masashi Miyazawa lashed the ball into the top corner to register his FIRST GOAL IN EIGHT YEARS!!!

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Gifu held on to the lead to register their first home win against Matsumoto, and provided a perfect home send-off for Kosuke Kitani & Atsushi Mio. Everybody played their part in this game, but it was Nazarit who once again proved Gifu’s spark, showing pace, presence & enthusiasm for the challenge. I sincerely hope he stays next year, but Gifu will do well to hold on to him as he won’t be short of offers.

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Gifu head to Kyoto next week to finish off the season. What would probably have been a dead rubber (given that Kyoto are out of play-off contention) has been given an interesting new twist with some news reports in today’s papers. More on that in a soon-to-come post…..

FC Gifu v Matsumoto Yamaga

The final home game of the season sees Gifu welcome already promoted Matsumoto Yamaga to the Memorial Center.

This will be the last chance that home fans get to see Kousuke Kitani & Atsushi Mio, both of whom announced their retirement from football come the end of the season. I have an inkling more will follow their lead in the coming weeks.

As for form, Gifu don’t have any to speak of having lost the last 5 games. They really need a win to at least sign off with some positivity. But that will be easier said than done against A Yamaga side high on life, high on the fact they’ll be in J1 next year and relaxed as they nothing to play for. Expect an open game and plenty of goals.

Match infromation & statistics

My Predicted FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Kitani, Sekita, Tanaka, Masuyama, Nogaito, Henik, Takachi, Ota, Namba, Nazarit

Top scorers:

  • Gifu: Nazarit – 16
  • Matsumoto: Funayama – 19

Recent form (last 5 games, most recent first):

  • Gifu: LLLLL
  • Matsumoto: WWWDW

Overall J.League record:

  • Gifu wins – 1
  • Matsumoto wins – 4
  • Draws – 0

Previous games in Gifu:

  • 2012: FC Gifu 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
  • 2013: FC Gifu 1-2 Matsumoto Yamaga

Kitani to retire

It was announced today that veteran defender Kosuke Kitani will retire at the end of the season, after 14 years as a pro.

His career has spanned nearly a decade and a half, with spells at Omiya Ardija, Vegalta Sendai and Sagan Tosu before climaxing here in Gifu.

Kitani arrived in Gifu in the summer of 2013 and almost immediately formed an important partnership with Tatsuya Arai and his experience was essential in keeping Gifu in the J.League. A tall, imposing defender, he has found first team opportunities hard to come by this year with arrival of Masanori Abe and the usage of Henik and/or Hideyuki Nakamura the main reasons.

In his statement to the club, Kitani said:

  • Thank you to the fans of Omiya Ardija, Vegalta Sendai, Sagan Tosu and of course FC Gifu. I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me throughout my career. For the remainder of the season, I will continue give everything I have to the team, and for the supporters.

This is what I’ll remember about Kitani – an absolute professional. And also his header against Vissel Kobe last year. He thumped the Gifu crest on his shirt….a small gesture but one that shows how much Gifu meant to him

Thank you Kosuke – and please enjoy your rest!! #kitani35

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木谷さん。。。本当にありがとうございました!

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