x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Japan need to toughen up

Japan's new football chief Motoaki Inukai has accused the country's footballers of being "spoiled" and ordered them to be more professional.

Kimiko Date joined the Japan FA board.
Kimiko Date joined the Japan FA board.

TOYKO // Japan's new football chief Motoaki Inukai has accused the country's footballers of being "spoiled" and ordered them to be more professional. Inukai, 66, said his first priority would be to halt an alarming slide in the national side's popularity after becoming president of the Japan Football Association (JFA). "I think the players still lack professionalism," said Inukai. "We spoil the players too much in this country. I don't feel they need to be given a 'cooling down' period the day after a game.

"They should be on TV the morning after games talking about the match with supporters - like they do in countries like Germany." Tennis player Kimiko Date and former Japan rugby coach Seiji Hirao also joined the JFA's executive board in a bid to bring new ideas to the association. Inukai's appointment as successor to Saburo Kawabuchi, 71, was formally approved on Saturday. Kawabuchi's close relationship with FIFA president Sepp Blatter helped win Japan hosting rights to the Club World Cup from 2005-08 and 2011-12.

The UAE hosts the competition next year and in 2010. However, the popularity of the Japanese national side has been in decline since their meek exit from the 2006 World Cup in Germany under the Brazilian coach Zico. There was little improvement under the Bosnian Ivica Osim, who was forced to step down after suffering a stroke last November. The current Japan coach Takeshi Okada's job has also come under threat during the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign while ticket sales continue to drop off.

"I want the players to go into games not worrying about anything," said Inukai, former chairman of Japan's best-supported club Urawa Reds. "In Germany players are in the TV studio at 10am the morning after analysing the game on a screen with fans who are also in the studio, explaining things, answering questions." @Email:sports@thenational.ae