Sunday, 5 July 2009

Agent Orange Reports: Mr 300

Last night against Marinos marked the 300th J-League game for one Yasuhiro Hato. If you've read my previous columns - and God knows why you would do that - you will know that Hato is not one of my favorite players. But he does deserve respect for hitting 300 games. Hato started out in the J-League as a member of the Yokohama Flugels, the weak sister of the original league. After three seasons of mostly practice team time, he worked his way in to being a regular for the amazing and doomed Flugels squad that won the Emperor's Cup, but lost its right to exist after ANA and Nissan formed a merger with Yokohama Marinos. Of the original Flugels, only four still ply their trade in the J-League (can you name the other three?).

Hato saw his best success as a member of the conglomerated Flugel Marinos, or F Marinos as they are called now... by virtually nobody. Alternating between defense and midfield, he helped Marinos build a foundation for a future renaissance of championships. He was a key member of the squad that won the 2001 Nabisco Cup. His play earned him fifteen call-ups to the national team, including a stint in the 2001 Confederations Cup squad that finished second to France.

In 2003, Hato would start to fade out of the plans of then-coach Takeshi Okada, his downturn coinciding with Yokohama claiming the second of three J-League championships. He would find himself on the way out to Kashiwa Reysol in the middle of 2004 alongside former Squirrel defender, Yukio Tsuchiya. During his time at Reysol, the Chiba club would experience their worst two years in its existence, appearing in relegation play-off battles two straight years. Another ex-Ardija player, Bare, would be the catalyst for Hato to make his move to Omiya when the big Brazilian forward singlehandedly decimated Kashiwa with a breathless goalscoring onslaught in the play-offs for Ventforet Kofu.

Hato joined Ardija in 2006, when the team were coached by Toshiya Miura and were coming off a surprising run to the 2005 Emperor's Cup semi-finals. Hato was one of an impressive list of reinforcements, including Daigo Kobayashi (now at Stabaek), Yoshiyuki Kobayashi (Kashiwa), Naoya Saeki (JEF), Kota Yoshihara (Mito), Yukio Tsuchiya (Verdy) and a little-known keeper from Oita Trinita by the name of Koji Ezumi. The class of 2006 as a whole was a disappointment, but Hato and Ezumi were successful in cementing roles in the squad. Hato seemed to struggle under the weight of carrying the offensive load on the sides, but has proven to be a steaadying force in the back.

Never really the greatest player on the pitch, Hato nevertheless plays a professional game. He carries himself on and off the field as a professional. If you go to practice games, you can see him working with Taishi Tsukamoto on little things that will help him as he becomes a pro. Mr Hato deserves respect and congratulations for a truly great feat. So today, Omedetou gozaimasu!

Game Note

1. That game was frustrating to watch because I'm not sure how to feel. Marinos put up fourteen shots but none of 'em really felt like they had a chance of going in. They had the ball 60% of the time but it seemed like we were controlling play. We had the ball in dangerous positions but didn't shoot. Taishi Tsukamoto had a great game defensively but absolutely shanked two free kicks. Ezumi played great in goal but couldn't distribute the ball to save his life. I'm at a loss for words. Everybody was good and not so good so a 0-0 tie was probably... fair?


Oh well... Furtho sent me this link to squirrel erotica. Caution - it's disturbing. Very nice, Webmaster.



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