Japanese player wanders in Europe, finds his dream in the K League

I’m Japanese, but I never played in the Japanese J-League. In his senior year of high school, he went on a soccer study abroad trip by himself and spent the next eight years traveling all over Europe, hoping to fulfill his dream of playing soccer. But it was in Korea, a country near and dear to my heart, that soccer really blossomed. Wearing the jersey of Bucheon FC 1995 in the K League 2 (2nd Division) this season, Kazu (real name Kazuki Takahashi) has been recognized for the first time in his life at the age of twenty-seven.

Registering under the name Kazu in the K League 2, his soccer career was anything but ordinary from the start. After gaining experience with the Kashiwa Reysol youth team, he hopped on a plane to Spain with the sole intention of learning advanced soccer. “I’ve always admired Spanish soccer since I was a kid and always dreamed of playing there,” he says. That’s why I decided to study in Spain at a young age.”

Going to Spain on his own was not easy. Understanding the language and culture was the first step. To do this, Kaz lived in a homestay for two years while he played for Real Aranjuez CF, a fourth division team based in Madrid, Spain. He attended language school for an hour every morning. But despite his best efforts, he didn’t get a chance to play for two seasons, and when he couldn’t find a team that wanted him, he had to leave Spain.

His next stop was Montenegro. Signing with second division side FK Igalo, Kaz was able to make his dream professional debut in his second season. The following year, he moved to Finnish first division FFJaro, where he became a regular starter and recorded his first offensive points (2 assists). He then spent two years in Romania, one year in Sweden, and another two years in Bulgaria. He traveled all over Europe just to play soccer.

But there was no place where Kaz could play the soccer of his dreams. After eight years in Europe, he chose South Korea for another challenge. “I always dreamed of playing in the Spanish Primera Liga, but I realized it was really difficult,” he says. “Two years ago, I had a chance to talk to Masa (a Japanese player from Daejeon) and he told me good things about Korea and the K League. He introduced me to his Korean agent and made it possible for me to join Bucheon,” he said. Masa is a year older than Kazu and competed in the same prefecture in Japan.

Kazu’s soccer career blossomed after he settled in Bucheon. After bouncing around Europe’s fringe leagues, he didn’t have much of a resume to show for it, but he was recognized for his soccer and earned a starting spot in his first season. In April of this year, he scored his first professional goal against Gimcheon Sangmu. Bucheon was so impressed with his performance that they offered him a new contract at the end of the first half of the season.

Kaz is known as the odd man out in Bucheon. In 2016, after a brief stint without a team, he spent six months learning to work at ZARA, a clothing store in Chiba, Japan. “After my failure in Spain, I decided to give up my dream of playing soccer and wanted to experience something other than soccer,” he says, “I went back to Europe after I realized that I couldn’t live without soccer while working.”

The real reason he’s called an eccentric is his frugality. The club provided him with a house and a car, but he still lived in a rented apartment until he recently moved into a studio. “When I was in Europe, I was used to having a small room. I didn’t need a big house,” he said. After using public transportation such as buses to travel to other teams’ games until the beginning of the season, he recently bought a car to commute to work: the Sevoda, an ultra-compact two-seater electric car made in Korea.안전놀이터

A fan favorite for his unique story and unconventional frugality, Kaz recently signed a new three-year contract with Bucheon. So what are his new dreams for Korea? “My goal is to make a lot of history in Bucheon. My biggest goal is to get the team promoted to the K League 1. I want to enjoy the top league with Bucheon fans.”

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