“I want to see that view again” Interview with YAMAMOTO Hideomi (Ventforet Kofu) - Emperor's Cup JFA 103rd Japan Football Championship
19 May 2023
The Emperor's Cup JFA 103rd Japan Football Championship kicks off on Saturday 20 May. Here we interviewed YAMAMOTO Hideomi from the defending champions Ventforet Kofu about his thoughts on last year's Emperor's Cup and his hopes for this year's tournament.
○This interview was conducted online on 10 April 2023
――Last season Ventforet Kofu were fighting relegation in J2. How did you stay motivated for the Emperor's Cup?
YAMAMOTO We had a difficult time getting results in the league and there was a sense of urgency that we might be relegated to J3. However, we were able to reaffirm that we were on the right track because we were defeating J1 clubs in the Emperor’s Cup with our style of football, and that really helped us maintain our mentality until the very end.
――You began the game on the bench and entered in the 112th minute with the score tied at one in the championship game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima after the team had won four straight games against J1 clubs.
YAMAMOTO Everyone was more agitated than I had anticipated, and there was a significant mental divide between players who wanted to score and players who didn't want to concede. That is why I asked my teammates how things were going on the pitch when I first entered the game. We were struggling in both ends, so we had to strike a balance between looking for opportunities and not conceding any goals.
――In the 116th minute, you committed a hand-ball inside the box and a penalty kick was awarded to the opponents. Tell us what went through your mind at that moment.
YAMAMOTO I literally blanked out. I was unable to hear nay sounds, including the cheers, what everyone was saying, or my own words. The fact that I was telling everyone to “get the balance right” just a few moments ago made it even worse.
――What was it like when KAWATA Kohei made the big save to deny the spot kick?
YAMAMOTO Looking back on it later, I looked like I had completely given up. The other players believed in Kawada, and their eyes were anticipating to clear the second ball. Mentally, I think I was the weakest of all of us, including the players on the bench and the club staff.
――What was your mindset following that big save until the end of the second half of extra time?
YAMAMOTO I was focused on keeping the team's balance and deflecting the second ball. I found myself unable to stay calm, so I concentrated on getting the small things right.
――After the second half of extra time, the game went to penalties and you were the fifth kicker. How was the order decided?
YAMAMOTO Coach YOSHIDA Tatsuma (at the time) decided the order. I usually take the first spot kick, but when he didn't call my name, I thought maybe he was factoring in my mindset after that play, but it turned out he wanted me to take the decisive kick at the end. I was glad to be entrusted with the fifth kick.
――As coach Yoshida envisaged, your turn came with Kofu in the lead.
YAMAMOTO I was really calm at the moment. As I approached the penalty spot from the centre circle, I was thinking, “I don’t remember it being this far,” but I used that moment to relax myself. I had a good intuition about the tendency of the opposing goalkeeper (OSAKO Keisuke), so I was able to locate the ball where I felt most confident.
――What went through your mind when the ball went in?
YAMAMOTO Nobody believes me, but everything went into slow motion. The ball flew very slowly, and it felt like it was taking a long time to get into the goal. I remember thinking to myself, “If it keeps going so slow, it's going to hit the crossbar.”
――After that dramatic victory, you are going into this year's Emperor's Cup as the defending champions. Please share with us your enthusiasm.
YAMAMOTO Sanpei (MITSUHIRA Kazushi) and I half-jokingly said that we were the only ones who could repeat as champions. We can't play a shameful game as the defending champions and we want to see that view again with our own power.
Emperor's Cup JFA 103rd Japan Football Championship
【1st Round】Sat. 20, Sun. 21 May [Backup date: Mon. 22 May]
【2nd Round】Wed. 7, Wed. 14, Wed. 21 June
【3rd Round】Wed. 12 July [Backup date: Wed. 19, Wed. 26 July]
【Round of 16】Wed. 2 August [Backup date: Wed. 9 August]
【Quarterfinals】Wed. 30 August［Backup date: Wed. 13 September］
【Semi-Finals】Sun. 8 October
【Final】Sat. 9 December
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