F.C.Tokyo have made a habit of developing some of Japan’s best footballers, from Yuto Nagatomo to Shuichi Gonda. Now, they have another generation of great youngsters ready to make their mark on Japanese football.
Naoki Kumata is one of the brightest young talents in the country, having starred at various youth national team levels before leading the U-20 Asian Cup in scoring earlier this month. It cemented his status as one of the best young players on the continent and paved the way for him to get a look for FCT in the J.League YBC Levain Cup last week.
What did Kumata do with a chance in the cup? Score his first professional goal, ghosting away from the would-be defender before nodding home from close range.
While the 18-year-old Kumata was playing for F.C.Tokyo, 21-year-old Kashif Bangnagande was away from the club for his first senior national team cap.
Not only did Bangnagande's excellent play in the capital earn him his first call-up to the Samurai Blue, but he was the only one of the national team newbies to earn a start, taking the pitch for kick off in Japan’s friendly with Colombia.
The left back put in a good shift, playing nearly an hour in his national team debut and making a compelling case for further looks from Hajime Moriyasu.
F.C.Tokyo are off to a solid start to their 2023 campaign, sitting in the top half of the table already, but the future of the club may be even better if Kumata and Bangnagande have anything to say about it.