The following is a translation of an interview new FC Gifu defender Masaya Tashiro did with Japanese football website “Soccer King”. You can see the original interview in Japanese here. (I’ve done my best with this translation, but it probably isn’t perfect. Please bear that in mind whilst reading)
How did you start playing football?
I just started playing at elementary school. It wasn’t long before my friends and I joined a team in Warabi Kitamachi (in Saitama).
What kind of team was it?
We were one of the best in the prefecture, but it wasn’t a team that had a professional connection. Just a team for people who wanted to play. At the time, I started to practice a lot of different things, especially lifting (keepy uppy).
What position did you start off in?
Centre back & holding midfielder. Up until junior high school I’d say that it was a fairly even 50-50 split between the two. After I started high school, that was the time that I settled as a centre back. I didn’t feel I was skillful enough to be a midfielder, but I thought I had the physical attributes to be a central defender.
You joined Bunan Junior High School Football Club….
Yes. I tried out for Omiya Ardija juniors & Mitsubishi Yowa (a famous junior club in Saitama) but I was nowhere near good enough! Also, because I lived close to Bunan JHS, I decided to go there and join the football club there.
While at Bunan, you played in the Prince Takamido Trophy.
We had a good team, and we won the prefectural round. In the Kanto regional round, we played Kawasaki Frontale and lost on penalties. And that was that. It was over quickly.
From Bunan JHS you went directly to Bunan High School.
Actually, I had wanted to go to Maebashi Ikuei or Funabashi HS (both famous footballing high schools). But during my final year of junior high school, my coach asked me to speak with Bunan HS’s coach. He explained his vision, and assured me that he would help me grow as a player. My parents, who were also there, were very impressed with him and between us we came to the decision that I would go to Bunan HS.
Was your coach, Oyama, strict?
Haha! Yes, he was. But I think we wanted that. Training was hard, but during my three years there I was able to practice at maybe a higher level of tension.That has set me up well.
How did you get on during your 3 years of high school?
In the third year, we got to the national high school championships, but in the second round we were beaten by Kamikura Gakuin (from Kagoshima).
How was your first experience of the HS championships?
Well, in March of my second year I suffered an injury. I recovered just about in time for the championship, but I never made it off the bench.
When did you start thinking about going to university?
In the third grade of high school. I had had the injury, and I was wondering what I should do. I talked it over with my coach and decided on Hosei. I passed their selection test, and so it was decided that I’d go there.
What did you think of Hosei?
Coming from Bunan, I thought of it as relative freedom!! The actual standard of football was high, but I wasn’t happy with my own level of performance. There were a lot of players there who were famous players from their high schools and I really wondered whether I would get in the team.
When did you first break into the team?
I played a little bit in my first year, but it was in the second year that I started playing regularly.
What did you take from your time playing football at Hosei?
This (last) year, when I moved up from the second team to the first team, I could really see & feel the difference in quality. It became really crystal clear to me that it isn’t just the players who score goals who win you games, it really is about everyone. About their positioning. About timings. About how you approach the opposition. I really learnt a lot this year.
Is there a game that stands out for you?
Yes, the 2014 Prime Ministers Cup final (which Hosei lost 2-1 against Ryutsu Keizai University). Apart from that, none really stand out for me.
Next season, you’ll play for FC Gifu. Who reached out to you?
After this year’s win against Chuyko University in the Prime Ministers Cup, the club said to the coach that they wanted me to take part in training. After we were knocked out of the Prime Ministers Cup, the coach told me about the approach and it was from there I that went to Gifu to train.
How did the offer arrive?
After I took part in training, they offered me a contract. There was another team that was interested, but I felt myself leaning towards Gifu.
There was a bit of time between the offer and the announcement.
Yes. At the time I accepted the offer, Gifu were still fighting to survive in J2. Obviously the club thought it was best to wait to announce it, even though I had decided to join earlier in November.
What was/is your image of Gifu?
I didn’t really see that many Gifu games, but in training we worked on defending sternly, and focusing on our own assignments.
Are there any opponents you are particularly focused on?
Of course, opposition forwards.
Any players you specifically want to play against?
Yes. My Hosei seniors Koji Suzuki and Tomohiro Taira (both of Machida Zelvia). Also, Cerezo Osaka’s Keiji Tamada. I’m looking forward to playing against him.
What will you bring to the team?
I love fighting for headers, and hate to lose. I also believe that the defence starts the attacks. Instead of just clearing the ball, if you can find a pass it immediately puts your opponents on the back foot. If I can do that in defence, then it allows the other players to go and do what they do.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to play at the highest level I can. I want to know how far I can go, and I don’t want to think “It’s impossible” about anything. As for the first year, my goal is to play in at least half of the games during the first half of the season.