Ahead of Tuesday’s AFC Champions League playoff against Chonburi FC, FC Tokyo captain Masato Morishige spoke about his experience in the 2012 edition of the tournament.
-With the season starting earlier than usual for Tokyo, how has training progressed?
I may have ran more at our Okinawa camp than ever before and I was able to get in a lot of physical training. It wasn’t easy, but I think I’m in good physical condition with the long season coming up. As Coach (Hiroshi Jofuku) told us, the most important thing we need to focus on right now is getting our bodies ready for the season.
-2012 was the first ACL appearance for you and the club. How do you remember that tournament?
It may be because it was our first time, but I really enjoyed the ACL. I’d heard that the scheduling and travel would be tough and I worried that I would wear out, but it wasn’t so bad. I remember how happy I was to be representing FC Tokyo in Asia, rather than the national team.
-You participated in the press conference before the first match against Brisbane.
It was exciting to play in Asia and it was a first for me. That sort of press conference, traveling by plane, playing in Australia, it was all refreshing and fun. There was a bit of concern about whether or not we would be able to play our style of football but we were also confident. It was a great tournament, and I hope we can earn the opportunity to participate again this year.
-Why do you think Tokyo were able to escape the group stage and why did you fall in the Round of 16?
In the (2012) group stage we we were able to play the style we wanted and that helped us earn those results. But in the Round of 16 we played Guangzhou Evergrande, one of Asia’s best clubs, and we were missing something. People frequently say about FC Tokyo and I’ve always thought about what that something is. I don’t have an answer, but by thinking about it we can improve as a team. It was disappointing that we lost in the Round of 16, but it also inspired us to think about what we have to do to take that next step and motivated us to reach that stage again.
-What did you learn from the experience?
Results are everything. Looking at the Emperor’s Cup final and other tournaments, looking back at last season’s standings… if you aren’t at the top, then nothing really matters. Last year we earned the most points in club history and had our best-ever attendance, and in many ways it was a historical year for FC Tokyo, but we have nothing to show for it. We haven’t achieved anything in several years as a club, and it doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t holding a trophy at the end of the season. A year feels like a long time but what’s really important is how you approach each match.
(Interview by Tomoo Aoyama)