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Germans, sausages and Kajiyama

3 Apr 2006(Mon)

Tokyo, March 31, 2006: Foreigners are quite rare at J.League matches, apart from on the pitch and in the dug-out.

Sometimes there's a few agents around, checking on their players, and occasionally there's a scout from a European club.

At Todoroki Stadium the other day I met Ulrich Mohr, chief scout of VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

He said he wasn't in Japan to watch any specific player, just to view the scene in general and meet with the likes of Guido Buchwald and Ivica Osim.

Mohr was also at Komaba on Wednesday for the Nabisco Cup group game between Reds and FC Tokyo, and I chatted with him again after the match.

He said he was impressed with the speed, the aggression, the forward movement of the teams and the technique of the Japanese players, and was interested in signing a young player who could be taught the European way.

He asked me who I liked, so I said Tokunaga, Konno and Inoha of FC Tokyo, but he said he preferred the more creative, attacking play of Kajiyama.

Had I still been working in English newspapers I would have gone to my labtop immediately and pounded out the following story: "German giants VfL Wolfsburg are ready to pounce for FC Tokyo's brilliant young schemer, Yohei Kajiyama.

"Top scout Ulrich Mohr checked out the 20-year-old midfield whizz-kid in Wednesday's match at Urawa Reds, and his club is preparing to make a one million-pound bid.

"FC Tokyo would be reluctant to lose such a talented player, but Kajiyama is already having German lessons and eating sausages and saurkraut three times a day to prepare for life in the Bundesliga."

This is how some of the English football writers would have reacted to such a harmless, post-match chit-chat, and, who knows, the story may come true. After all, the German scout mentioned Kajiyama (actually he said the No. 23), not me!

What was clear, though, was that there seems little chance of a Japanese defender being transferred to Europe, due to their lack of height, which is a crucial factor in the big, tough, physical world of the Bundesliga, where 1.90-metre eastern Europeans lurk in every penalty box.

"I liked the No. 2 for Reds (Tsuboi)," said Mohr, referring to an earlier match.

"He is quick and aggressive and has good technique, but is 10 centimetres too small. In Germany you want high players (he meant 'tall', but it was close) in the defence. Midfielders and strikers are better, and young players so they can be coached," said Mohr.

Japan is not without tall defenders -- for example Nakazawa and Matsuda at Marinos, or the entire back line of Frontale, who resemble a basketball team when they walk out on the pitch -- but clearly the more creative players stand a better chance of impressing the Euro scouts.

Kajiyama is 20, a midfielder, 1.80 metres and 75 kgs...just a minute, I have thought of an article!

"Bayern Munich are preparing to replace Manchester United-bound Michael Ballack with FC Tokyo's 10 million-pound rated midfield schemer Yohei etc. etc......"

ends

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