A salute to Gifu’s new idol – NMB24

In the midst of FC Gifu’s high profile winter recruitment campaign that saw Ruy Ramos, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Alex Santos come in, one name that probably slipped by most people was the name of Hiroaki Namba. Not surprising really. The 31 year old front man had spent an uninspiring loan spell at Mito Hollyhock in 2013 which yielded just one goal, while his 2012 season at Yokohama FC produced no goals. Many, including myself, wondered why he had been brought to the club.

Now, we know.

Namba has brought energy, aggressiveness, tenacity and a relatively surprising cutting edge as he has scored 6 goals so far this year. He has also instantly turned into a fans favourite through his all action displays and his instant rapport with the fans. Those who have witnessed his megaphone performances after games, not to mention his local TV appearances, know that he is a generally likable guy.

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But don’t be fooled into thinking that all this niceness pervades on to the pitch. He has shown a spiky, nasty streak. He isn’t afraid to let defenders know he is there – leaving a foot in, barging them, giving them a few words.

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As for his play, he seems to do most of his work on the shoulder of the last defender and near to the goal. Most of his goals have come from close range, with the notable exception of his brilliant strike against Okayama. His tireless running also creates space for his strike partner, whether it be Nazarit, Tanaka or Endo.

After the Kamatamare Sanuki opener, coach Ruy Ramos jokingly (I think!) said that Namba was on a ¥5000 goal bonus. The “Namba-meter” is now at ¥30000. I’m sure Ramos won’t mind that figure going up.

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