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Old boys and cowboys

25 Dec 2008(Thu)

December 24, 2008: The small section of Kashima Antlers fans high up in the stands at the J.League Awards were in good voice on Monday evening.

There was plenty to celebrate after all. Marquinhos netted a hat trick of prizes as leading scorer, best XI selection and, the big one, MVP.

Right back Atsuto Uchida and centre half Daiki Iwamasa joined Marquinhos in the best XI; Oswaldo Oliveira was named best manager for the second year in a row, and Antlers old boys Yutaka Akita, Akira Narahashi and Hisashi Kurosaki were among the recipients of a special achievement award.

Such was the pride of the Antlers fans that they broke out in song at regular intervals, adding a bit of terrace atmosphere to the meticulously planned, meticulously formal bow-tie occasion at Meets Port near Tokyo Dome.

But perhaps their biggest cheer was reserved for another Kashima hero, still playing in J1 for Kyoto Sanga FC. It was, of course, Atsushi Yanagisawa, who was also named in the best XI alongside Marquinhos in the two-pronged forward line.

"Atsushi-goal" bagged 14 in 32 league games last term for the Purple Ones, playing a major part in keeping them in the top flight. It was his third selection in the best XI, and clearly the change of scenery from Kashima to Kyoto and fresh challenge had worked wonders for his game.

On the subject of changing scenery, Antlers manager Oswaldo was doing exactly that the next day, flying back to Brazil for a month's vacation in which the festivities would include the wedding of his daughter -- not to a footballer, to an engineer.

It's been a long few days for Oswaldo since his team clinched the championship on the last day of the season, at Sapporo on December 6. With the awards held rather late this time, on December 22, and with Antlers having been eliminated from the Emperor's Cup, Oswaldo has been counting down the days to his holiday -- and cooking quite a bit, too.

"I have been in Kashima alone for 16 days," he sighed, before the awards ceremony kicked off.

"There has been no training with the players and my Brazilian staff have all gone home. There is nothing to do, only cooking. My place is like a farm -- and I've been living like a cowboy!"

Maybe this cowboy lifestyle will be useful next season to win a shootout -- a penalty shootout, that is.


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