Ahead of Tuesday’s AFC Champions League playoff against Chonburi FC, FC Tokyo captain Masato Morishige touched on the return of manager Hiroshi Jofuku as well as the team’s goals for 2016.
-Since Hiroshi Jofuku stepped down in 2010 you’ve played under Kiyoshi Okuma, Ranko Popovic, and Massimo Ficcadenti. How has the team progressed since Jofuku’s first term?
I think many people wonder what’s changed within the club in the last five and a half years, and if I weren’t an FC Tokyo player I might wonder the same thing. But I’m a Tokyo player and I have to show what we’ve done. In a sense it’s an incredibly difficult challenge. It’s rare to play under a manager for a second time after so long. We have to show how we’ve grown as a team and as a club. We have to show that we’ve changed.
-Do you think you’ve benefited from experiencing both the “passing football” advocated by Jofuku and Popovic as well as the defensive-heavy football backed by Ficcadenti?
You have to take it as a positive. I think you start out with your ideal football, then you shift to a more practical style, and once you’ve gotten results with practicality then you can start shifting more and more to your ideal style, and that’s why the club brought Jofuku back.
I’m not prejudiced toward either style. As players we can’t just focus on the present, we have to think about FC Tokyo’s history, what sort of football it’s developed, and how it’s developed that. If all of us can do that, the team will be stable no matter who our manager is.
Different managers have different ways of doing things. They’re all trying to win but they have different approaches, so by learning them you gain more depth as a player. It’s the same as with the national team; the best players are the ones who play well no matter who’s on the bench.
-Despite a strong 2015, the end of the season saw Tokyo struggle to score goals. What sort of “theme” will you be following this season?
As players we know our goal is to win the league, but last season taught us just how difficult that is. Our manager will install his philosophy and we have to follow it. We’re just focused on winning each match we play. Other than that, we want to improve our numbers. If we can allow fewer goals, score more ourselves, and earn more points, we can rise in the standings and make history. I worked hard to reduce the number of yellow cards I was shown, and last season I focused on scoring more goals. You play differently when you focus in that way, so I hope we can all concentrate on winning and improving our stats.
-With the season already starting for you on Tuesday (against Chonburi), what’s your outlook for 2016?
Our goal is to win the league, but really each match is do-or-die for us. I think in many ways we feel a sense of “danger” heading into this season, so we want to focus on improving our stats and taking it one match at a time. We don’t want to finish the season like last year; we want to be smiling in the end. The ACL presents a lot of opportunity for us to gain experience and improve, so our first step is to win on February 9 in order to reach the main tournament and represent Japan in Asia.
(Interview by Tomoo Aoyama)