Today it was announced that veteran midfielder Toshihiro Hattori will retire at the end of this season, bringing the curtain down on a career that has spanned nearly 20 years.
Hattori made his name at jubilo Iwata, playing for them for over ten years and being named in the Japan squad for the 2002 World Cup. After leaving Jubilo he went to Tokyo Verdy for three years before joining then JFL side Gainare Tottori. He (along with future Gifu team-mate Atsushi Mio) helped Tottori out if the JFL and into J2.
Hattori joined Gifu from Gainare Tottori in the winter of 2012 and has been one of the few constants for Gifu in the past two years. Whilst his engine is not what it was, he never ever gives anything less than 100% on the pitch. In a team that has fielded quite a lot of young/inexperienced players over the course of the past two years his experience has been important.
People that know him say that he is a complete gentleman, and I have no problem in believing that. During the rough streak of the last two years, he has always led the team to salute the fans, whether Gifu had won, lost or drawn.
He bows out with a home game against Consadole Sapporo and his final game will be the last day visit to Kataller Toyama. It will be a fitting tribute if Gifu stay up, as it would really hurt for him retire on a relegation.
His future? I would be amazed if he doesn’t become a coach/manager somewhere. Perhaps even in Gifu, if the Ramos rumour turns out to be false. Of course, Jubilo Iwata have just been relegated and there are stories that their current coach Sekizuka will be off to manage Omiya Ardija next year. Honestly, I think a lot of clubs will be interested in the services of Hattori, but I hope he takes a very well-earned break first.