FC Gifu head coach Ruy Ramos sprang somewhat of a surprise this year when he named central defender Yuki Fukaya as the team captain for 2015.
That isn’t to say Yuki doesn’t have the traits required to be captain, because he almost certainly does. The surprise comes because Fukaya missed almost the entire 2014 season with a knee ligament injury, and suffered a hamstring problem upon his return. It is a bit risky to give the armband to someone with injury concerns like Fukaya, but Ramos has earmarked as the on-pitch leader.
There were big hopes when Fukaya joined Gifu in the winter of 2013/14 that he would be the linchpin of Ramos’ defence, However, during FC Gifu’s pre-season tour of Oita he suffered a knee injury that almost immediately ruled him out of the vast majority of the season. However, Fukaya showed great dedication in his rehabilitation, and was always present around the club and supporting the rest of the players & staff. He became popular with everyone involved with the club, despite the fact that we very rarely saw him on the field.
I remember speaking to Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi after the Kataller Toyama game last March, and he said that he was looking forward to playing with Fukaya and that his loss would be difficult to cope with. It did go a little like that, as Gifu tried a myriad of central defensive pairings, but never really settling on one that gave the defence the towering presence it needed.
This year, Fukaya will likely be partnered by Kazumichi Takagi and/or one of Naoya Okane, Masanori Abe or Hiroshi Sekita, depending on whether Gifu play a 4 at the back or 3 at the back. Fukaya has the presence to be a leader in that defence, and his experience – along with that of Kawaguchi behind him and Keiji Takachi in front of his – should provide Gifu with a sterner spine in 2015. He has the respect of everyone in the squad which should ensure that his captaincy is legit.
Captain Yuki, we are all behind you.