Yasuhito Endo is the new club captain

After speculation from the Japanese media and tweeters, Yasuhito Endo (33, Midfielder) has become the new club captain, replacing Tomokazu Myojin who has been captain since taking over from Satoshi Yamaguchi.

Every Gamba Osaka fan would agree that the star player in the team is Yasuhito Endo. Of course, he is a star outside of the team, being the all-time record holder of appearances with Japan (124 so far) and he is known throughout Japan and marginally overseas. Having played for Gamba since joining from Kyoto Purple Sanga in 2001, Endo has achieved 475 appearances in all competitions scoring 99 goals in that time. It is difficult to write what has been said thousands of times before about this man, but his experience, calmness, skill and dedication to the Gamba cause is a massive plus. He ought to be able to pull the team through a difficult J2 season back to J1 within a season. Nobody deserves to be captain more than this man, and we are truly grateful that he is with us to fight and win.

What also needs a mention is the matter of vice-captaincy. The team has experience throughout with Futagawa, Konno, Myojin etc., but Konno is certainly not a leader, as shown by the defensive record and his need of a leader to be at his best, whilst it seems that Hasegawa is trying to use Myojin less this season, thus giving him a rest whilst giving the youngsters like Abe, Okazaki and Uchida a great opportunity to get experience alongside the new captain.

Congratulations are in order for Akira Kaji and Shu Kurata, who have both been named as vice-captains! I think the choice of Kaji is a good call as he has experience and a high skill level which can certainly and hopefully tidy that back-line up a bit more.

The interesting choice is why have two vice-captains? Therefore, we must question why Kurata? Why not Futagawa, Fujigaya (joking!) or even Myojin? It is clear to see why, because Endo will have to miss games if he is to be part of Japan’s Confederations Cup run in Brazil and EAFF East Asia Cup in South Korea this summer. It is not a given that Kaji will be fit for all these games or whether Hasegawa will want to rest him often. It is clear to see that Hasegawa wants to use the younger players more. The squad needs rebuilding, and he is going the right way about it. Kurata was a consistent figure on the left-side of the midfield last season and scored some amazing goals (Shimizu away, Iwata away) but was more importantly captain of the youth team during his youth days. The new number six also turned down the opportunity to re-join the Pigs and is committed to the cause. He will have to cope with the responsibility when he takes the armband but he is experienced enough to do it. Although it may seem like a strange choice, I take my metaphorical hat off to Hasegawa for this smart move.

My best wishes to these three players on achieving the most prestigious roles at the best club. Do your best, fight and win J2. Take us home!

Lee Seung-Yeoul leaves the club after one season

Lee Seung-Yeoul (23, Striker) has ended his brief spell with the club by returning to his homeland to join Seongham Ilhwa Chunma.

As previously reported here, rumours suggested that Lee was set to return to Gamba after his loan spell at Ulsan Hyundai ended. His exclusion from the squad list on Monday cast doubts upon his future and the news of his departure has been made official on Seongnam’s website.

Lee failed to impress for Gamba during his few months at the club before going to Ulsan, where he was a bit part player, making 11 appearances without a goal. He returned to South Korea where he played a small part in the team’s success in the ACL. Having cost Gamba approximately ¥150 million, one does wonder if his sale will return any of that money.

Seeing his stats in the previous article shows that his future star reputation has gone sideways. Nevertheless, if his fee has been slightly recouped, Kenta Hasegawa may want to add another face or two to add a bit more depth, particularly at the back, but this is not traditionally Gamba’s way.

I hope that Lee can return to his former reputation and improve Seongnam in the K.League Classic. Goodbye, Lee.

First two fixtures revealed

Gamba’s start to the season is once again a home match against a Kansai rival, whilst their first away match is against the newest member to join the J.League.

This year, Gamba cannot play Cerezo on the first day of the season as they did in 2011 and the likelihood of the J.League pitting them against Kobe was very low, although this was the opening fixture last season at home. So they get to play Kyoto Sanga on the 3rd March, who finished 3rd last season in J2 and went on to lost their semi-final play-off against newly-promoted Oita Trinita 4-0 at home. This will be one of the biggest tests all season and Gamba need to start off on the right foot if they are to get some early momentum flowing.

The following week’s game will be the first away clash for Gamba and it will coincide with the first-ever J.League match for V-Varen Nagasaki, who won the JFL in 2012. This clash should be harder than we all think as you would expect a capacity crowd for one of the most southern teams in Japan. The team also symbolise the rise of football in the west of Japan, so we all know anything is possible. Underdogs can do amazing things, but let’s hope that 10th March is just a standard, no Fujigaya howler, win.

Kenta Hasegawa will be targeting six points from six and these two fixtures were the best way to start of the long road ahead. The full list of fixtures will be revealed on the 1st February so come back to this blog on that date and check the fixtures section.

The revival starts with a rival…

The 2013 season officially starts now!

Gamba Osaka have officially started their pre-season after completing the first press conference of the year which introduced the new president, the season’s slogan, the new manager, the new players and those all important new uniforms.

The press conference started off with the new club president, Teruhisa Noro, detailing the obvious from last season and how Gamba will return to J1 for the 2014 season, as well as revealing the new club slogan for the year, which is “Fukkatsu”「復活」which means resurrection/revival, an apt and poignant slogan for the year in which Gamba will spend its first J2 season. He also stated how he hoped Gamba will meet the everyone‘s expectations of them and how this revival will also be an evolution. We shall see what this entails but I am very much looking forward to it.

Kenta Hasegawa then took the mantle with Oh Jae-Suk and Kenya Okazaki, Gamba’s two new young signings, either side of him. He talked about how he is honoured to manage a club like Gamba, acknowledged the fact that J2 is difficult but knows that promotion is the only option. He also rightly highlighted the amount of goals we conceded and with the addition of Sidiclei to the staff, it looks like he will combat this. Good luck Kenta!

Oh Jae-Suk was next to talk to the media, stating he was honoured to join a team like Gamba, against whom he had his debut for Suwon! He also stated that he thinks he will be able to fit into the team very well and he will do his best. I am hoping you will!

Kenya Okazaki, joining from Kansai University, is hoping to get to grips with the professional environment and make his first appearance. He highlighted his desire to be involved in the attack and he has the impression that we, as a club, are fighting towards one goal. All the best in your professional career, Kenya!

And just a note that Lee Seung-Yeoul was not included on the squad list which makes you assume that he will not be coming back to Osaka. Good luck to you Lee, if this is the case.

Then the moment we were waiting for: new uniforms. Yasuhito Endo, Takahiro Futagawa and Yosuke Fujigaya came out sporting the home, away and one of the three goalkeeper uniforms respectively. Pictures below:

PresentationHome UniformAway UniformGoalkeeper Uniforms

Copyright to Gamba Osaka. No infringement intended.

Prices will be from ¥26,250 up to ¥30,975 for an authentic version of either home or away, from ¥9,975 up to ¥14,700 for a replica home or away uniform or from ¥8,925 to ¥13,650 for a junior home shirt, depending on whether you want a name and number. The shirts will be launched on the 9th February at 10:00am JST. Make sure you get yours and let us know who you will be getting. I will be getting the authentic home version with Akihiro Sato 20, despite him being injured at the moment!

So with all that done, the practice match schedule is as follows:

  • 26/01/2013, 13:00 JST – vs Gamba Osaka Youth
  • 03/02/2013, 15:30 JST – vs Omiya Ardija
  • 09/02/2013, 11:00 JST – vs Avispa Fukuoka
  • 12/02/2013, 11:00 JST – vs Fagiano Okayama
  • 15/02/2013, 11:00 JST – vs Machida Zelvia
  • 24/02/2013, 14:00 JST – vs Gainare Tottori
  • 25/02/2013, 14:00 JST – vs Gainare Tottori

And with that, I conclude this piece. I am looking forward to promotion celebrations and Gamba no longer being a J2 team on my birthday (24th November). Let’s get the revival on!

Eduardo heads back to Brazil

Eduardo (Defender, 23) has ended his loan at the club and will be heading back to Brazil after an injury-plagued season at Banpaku.

Some of you might be questioning who he actually is because he never played a league game and he made just one appearance all season which lasted just over an hour and was in the Nabisco Cup quarter-final second leg against Kashiwa Reysol, which Gamba lost 2-1 (5-2 defeat on aggregate). He looked comfortable but was pretty much injured for the entire season.

He joined the club for the 2012 season, coming from Wagner Lopes’ former club Paulista. Given what transpired after Serrão’s sacking, one can only assume that Eduardo was not in the plans of the club even with his injuries. Additionally, his signing in the first place could have just been because he came from Wagner’s old club. Furthermore, Alan Gibson of JSoccer Magazine had the “privilege” to referee games with Eduardo and stated that he was simply awful and could not control the ball and made many bad passes. A combination of all these things must have contributed to such a lack-lustre season.

Even if he was fit, I don’t believe he could have ever ousted Hiroki Fujiharu from the left-back position as Fujiharu was simply too consistent and one of the better players during 2012. Anyways, goodbye to Eduardo, whoever you are, and good luck in your future career!

Keisuke Iwashita is a permanent Gamba player

After spending the second half of last season on loan from Shimizu S-Pulse, Keisuke Iwashita (Defender, 26) has made that move to Gamba permanent which will ease the lack of central-defensive players, with Kim Jung-Ya and Sota Nakazawa having already departed.

Iwashita started his professional career at Shimizu S-Pulse in 2005 and remained a player there until last season. He was eased into life in J1 under new Gamba manager Kenta Hasegawa, boss of Shimizu at the time, and his career went onwards and upwards from there. He impressed during this time but in recent years he has become a bit more erratic and failed to regain the form he had under Hasegawa with Afshin Ghotbi at the helm of the club. Wholesale changes during mid-season from Shimizu lead to Keisuke also being allowed to leave. His behaviour at times was not great at Shimizu, having collected four red cards whilst in Shizuoka as well having his relationship turn sour with the fans. In seven and a half seasons with S-Pulse, he played 175 games and he scored 17 goals as a centre-half.

Keisuke made his debut for Gamba as a substitute in the 2-2 Osaka Derby. He was often rotated between right-back and centre-half due to injuries to Kaji and the reluctance to use Takei there or to use Niwa and Kim and centre-half (very understandable!). He was for the most part stable (within an unstable defence) but showed his flamboyant side when he conceded a penalty against Niigata in the 90th minute to tie the game at 1-1. Nevertheless, the fans really loved him and seem delighted to know that he will be back for the promotion charge in 2013. He played 18 games on loan and scored one goal; that was against Machida Zelvia in the Emperor’s Cup 3-2 win.

The hope for this season is that Keisuke can return to his best form under former boss Hasegawa, which must have been an important and persuasive factor in his decision to become a permanent Gamba player. I am really hoping that he can become a leader at the back and prove to everyone that he still has what it takes to become a top J1 player. Thank you for staying with us in spite of relegation last season. Everyone appreciates it!

Oh Jae-Suk joins the club

After a few months of speculation and failure to capture him last summer, Gamba has finally signed Oh Jae-Suk (Defender, 23) from Gangwon F.C. of South Korea.

Oh is a right-back and will be most known for his participation in the London Olympics in 2012 where he and his country managed to finish in 3rd place after beating Japan 2-0 in the 3rd place play-off. He made three appearances during the tournament and started two of those, as well as being an unused substitute three times. He still managed to get two yellow cards in 293 minutes of football but positively has had exposure to high level football which will be necessary in J2.

His youth career started in 2009 at Kyung Hee University, and then he joined Suwon Bluewings in 2010. He made just 13 appearances that season so he was loaned out to Gangwon F.C. for 2011 and he made his move permanent for the 2012 season. Over the two seasons, he made a total of 61 appearances and scored three goals. Most importantly, he became a regular at Gangwon and was able to cement his place as the first choice right-back. Although the team finished 16th and 14th during these seasons, it must be said that the team was only created a few years ago.

His transfer will be a relief to Gamba fans as Akira Kaji is not getting any younger and his injuries last season forced Gamba to use Takei, Uchida and Iwashita there. It will be good to see Oh battle it out with Kaji but also to learn from him. Uchida is still young and may have to bide his time if he wants to claim the right-back as his own. Nevertheless, Oh has got the necessary experience to assure a swift return to J1 and will allow Kaji some rest in this long long season.

I would like to finally welcome Oh to Banpaku and I hope that he has much more success in his very young career.