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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > NEWS > 【Tales of the mentors】Interview with Coach KOIDO Masaaki of University of Tsukuba on MITOMA Kaoru


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【Tales of the mentors】Interview with Coach KOIDO Masaaki of University of Tsukuba on MITOMA Kaoru

17 October 2022

【Tales of the mentors】Interview with Coach KOIDO Masaaki of University of Tsukuba on MITOMA Kaoru

"Tales of the mentors" is a series of interviews with former mentors of the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) players. In the third article, we interviewed Coach KOIDO Masaaki of University of Tsukuba about the extraordinary dribbler MITOMA Kaoru.

○This interview was conducted on 25 April 2022

Genius of hard work. His dedication towards preparation was unparalleled

――Mitoma has been playing remarkably for the SAMURAI BLUE. He scored two goals as a second half substitute against Australia in the Asian Qualifiers (Road to Qatar) in March this year, contributing greatly to the team's qualification for the World Cup.

KOIDO The second goal in particular, which he scored off the dribble, is a play he has shown many times during his time at the University of Tsukuba. He played with confidence, even in a match where the qualification for the FIFA World Cup™ was on the line. Even if you know which way he is going, you can't stop that dribble. It was a real pleasure to see him thrive on the big stage.

――Did he practice that move during his time at the university?

KOIDO He trained one-on-one with YAMAKAWA Tetsushi (now Vissel Kobe) in that position, at that angle, every day since he was a freshman. The defenders knows what Mitoma will do next, but they somehow can’t stop him. Even when the defenders thought they had the advantage, they always seemed to be caught flat footed. When he started dribbling near the penalty area on the left side, he was unstoppable. I think they call it the “Mitoma zone” at Kawasaki Frontale, but the groundwork was laid at University of Tsukuba.

――Did you ever give advice regarding his dribbling skills?

KOIDO It’s all about game intuition, so I hardly said anything. I never interfered with his personal training either. However, when it came to matches, I often told him that he needs to earn results in order to compete on the international stage, because he wasn’t much of a goal-scorer during his time at the university. I think he was still experimenting with a lot of things. I got the impression that he was not as keen on scoring goals as he is now and was more focused on beating the opponents in front of him.

――After graduating from university, Mitoma honed his goal scoring skills at Kawasaki. In his first year as a professional, he scored 13 goals in J1, and took his challenge to Europe in the following year.

KOIDO Since turning professional, he has shown strong determination to score goals. Seeing how accurate his shots are, I can tell that his technique has finally reached his intuition. He always had a unique and prodigious ability to kick the ball. He must have worked so hard. Mitoma was definitely gifted, but he was also a genius of hard work.

――What do you mean by “genius of hard work?”

KOIDO He was really good at “self-improvement.” Every time he hit a wall, he worked hard to overcome it. He scored goals in a crucial match in the Asian Qualifiers, but he was not always strong in the big games. He had limited opportunities to play at the Universiade (Taipei 2017), which he participated in his second year at university, after suffering a slight sprain, and when he participated in the Asian Games as part of the U-21 Japan National Team, he fell ill in Indonesia, where he hardly played at all. However, through those bitter experiences, he has become more conscious about injury prevention and his diet. He invested in himself without wasting money on other things. He really made sure he had a good diet, physical training and even care products. Compared to other university students, his dedication towards preparation was unparalleled.

――He played a key role from his first year at the university. It didn’t seem like he was hitting the wall.

KOIDO He was mentally immature when he first arrived at the university. He received two unnecessary yellow cards and ruined a match on one occasion. After the match in which he was sent off, he cried and apologised to his team-mates and never made the same mistake again.

――From his sophomore year he was a mainstay of the team and was selected the Best Eleven in the Kanto University League for three years in a row.

KOIDO Even so, it was not all plain sailing, as he himself mentioned that he had gone through a lot of hardships. People around him perceived him as an exceptional player, and he was aware of this. I, as a coach, also kept pushing him that he could do more. However, he wasn’t living up to those expectations in terms of his number of goals and assists. This may sound harsh, but I don't think we did much to help the team win and Mitoma struggled on a daily basis. He is a man who decided to come to University of Tsukuba even though he had been promoted from Kawasaki's U-18 team to the top team. He had a clear vision of who he wanted to be and overcame each obstacle one by one, working backwards from his goal. He is currently playing an active role for the SAMURAI BLUE, but I think it is because of his diligent, steady, and painstaking efforts that he has made his career what it is today.

――If he is available to compete in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which starts in November, what do you expect from him?

KOIDO I hope he will be injury-free and give everything he has to this tournament. I hope he will be loved and cheered on by many people.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

Tournament Dates: Mon. 21 November - Sun. 18 December 2022
[Group Stage]
1st Match: Wed. 23 November 16:00 [Local Time] vs Germany National Team
2nd Match: Sun. 27 November 13:00 [Local Time] vs Costa Rica National Team
3rd Match: Thu. 1 December 22:00 [Local Time] vs Spain National Team

Tournament Information

  • 朝日新聞
  • 大東建託
  • Family Mart
  • au
  • Mizuho
  • MS&AD
  • Toyo Tire Corporation
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