Football Fantasy – Hokkaido

Several prefectures will show a deep bond with the most important club of their region, but with Hokkaido we’re probably going beyond that. We have though to remind that Hokkaido is one of the islands composing the country and not just a simple prefecture. And despite being 8th for population, Hokkaido is indeed not only the northernmost Prefecture of Japan, but also the biggest one. And not by few inches, sincce Hokkaido has five times and a half the landmass of Iwate Prefecture, which is second in this special table, 10 times Hiroshima’s, 41.5 Tokyo’s.

This consideration comes with the knowledge that Hokkaido – which became an official prefecture only in 1947 – is indeed a special part of Japan, really fascinating and with a different story compared to the other regions of the country. The island features a characteristic wildlife, with many national parks and several earthquakes which hindered the region from time to time (the last one happened on September 6, 2018: a terrible 6.6M). Yet, the beauty of this part of the world is undeniable, where Sapporo represents the main hub.

And it’s not only a political and economic centre, since Sapporo hosted 1972 Winter Olympics and features every year the Sapporo Snow Festival, held every in February. Beside being a wonderful and herculean stadium, the gigantic Sapporo Dome is the home of the baseball team, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and of Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, which recently were re-named in 2016 by adding the “Hokkaido” to their denomination. A move that brings the club even closer to their marked Northern identity.

It’s not a surprise that Consadole Sapporo are becoming a main attraction for the people of the region: after many seasons spent in 2nd tier, the club has re-joined J1 League and last year they save themselves. In 2018, they’re having a good run, with even some continental aspirations. And while football is growing in the Prefecture – Hokkaido Tokachi Sky Earth partnered with Leifas, a sports company, and they badly want to reach JFL –, even the quality of players is raising thanks to Consadole.

Just look at the possible line-up we’ve composed: among the starters, seven of them featured or were even raised by Consadole Sapporo. And if you take a brief glance to the bench, that 63,6% of players who had the chance of wearing a red and black shirt rockets up to 78,3%! So the club currently coached by Mihailo Petrović has certainly done a lot to form many, many players during the last 10-15 years and a large percentage of them has achieved a decent career throughout the Japanese football pyramid.

Using the classic 3-4-2-1 that Consadole are now implementing under the Serbian manager, it’s incredible how the toughest choices were required for the goalkeeper and the striker. Starting with the no. 1, we picked Takashi Kitano (class ’82), who had a long and solid career in J1 only to recently land to J3 League with Gainare Tottori. In front of him, we have a three back-formation, with a good level, I’d say: revelation and Consadole-bound Ryosuke Shindo (’96) has to play alongside veteran Kazuhiko Chiba (‘85) and possible JNT-member Tatsuki Nara (‘93). As a possible back-up, you could use Masuhiro Nasukawa (’86), one of the few members of this roster who didn’t feature for Consadole Sapporo.

And talking about Consadole, the midfield is entirely due to their work: three players are currently playing at the Sapporo Dome and the one who isn’t was anyway raised by the Giants of the North. The latter is Daigo Nishi (’87), a current senator of Kashima Antlers and ductile player for the Ibaraki-based side. On the other side of the midfield, you find another revelation of 2018 season, Daiki Suga (’98), who initially was a forward, but he’s now been converted to a wing-back by Petrović. In the middle of the pitch, you could find two loyal players of Consadole like Takuma Arano (’93) and captain Hiroki Miyazawa (’89), with the last one enjoying a rebirth in his performances during last season.

If other current or former Consadole players could serve as back-ups – like Kazuki Fukai (’95), Yuto Horigome (’94) and Seiya Fujiya (’87) –, the offensive plays could be hindered by the strength of forwards. We would field two offensive midfielders like Rei Matsumoto (’88) and Shohei Kiyohara (‘87). They’re different players – Matsumoto is a smart and speedy winger, while Kiyohara is a box-to-box midfielder with license to score (four seasons with double digits of goals) –, but they share not being even remotely close to Consadole Sapporo in their careers.

Matsumoto played for Yokohama F. Marinos and he’s now in Oita featuring for Trinita, while Kiyohara made a big trip between Shiga, Kanazawa and Osaka only to end up back at Zweigen this year. And if Shogo Nakahara (‘94) could be a forced back-up, for the striker position there isn’t a real and good candidate. Therefore, we pitched Hiroki Furuta (‘91), a gifted winger at Blaublitz Akita and former Consadole member, as falso nueve. Better than nothing, but who knows if Ren Fujimura (‘99) will eventually shine with… Consadole, yeah, you guessed right.

12 Awaka (CON), 21 Matsubara (THE) / 13 Kushibiki (NAG), 14 S. Fujita (SHO), 15 Ichimura (KAT), 16 M. Nasukawa (MAT), 17 Horigome (ALB), 18 K. Fukai (CON), 19 T. Mae (REN), 20 S. Nakahara (VVN), 22 Yamase (AVI), 23 Fujimura (CON)
12 Awaka (CON), 21 Matsubara (THE) / 13 Kushibiki (NAG), 14 S. Fujita (SHO), 15 Ichimura (KAT), 16 M. Nasukawa (MAT), 17 Horigome (ALB), 18 K. Fukai (CON), 19 T. Mae (REN), 20 S. Nakahara (VVN), 22 Yamase (AVI), 23 Fujimura (CON)

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