Mr. J3

“Back when all my little goals seemed so important

Every pot of gold fill and full of distortion

Heaven was a place still in space not in motion

But soon”

June 10th, 2013. It’s a normal Summer and the radio are pumping a new hit. It’s Jack Johnson, who has built himself a reputation in the music world in the last years. “I Got You” is a ballad to celebrate his love for his wife, the attachment to his kids and an old video celebrates Johnson singing the song from different backgrounds. Among Jack Johnson’s songs, that will be among the two to stay in the “Billboard Top 100” in Japan.

The day before, on June 9th, YSCC have just lost 4-0 away at Sagamihara. It’s the 2013 Japan Football League season, and YSCC are not exactly thriving, but it doesn’t matter. The future looks so bright because at the end of the season a new era will begin. JFA has already established the birth of the J3 League, the third professional division, which will see its maiden year in 2014. And YSCC are gonna be a part of it.

Among the players on the pitch that day at the GION Stadion, some of them will become part of that J3 ride. YSCC have a core that will be retained by the club in the next years, but there’s one player above others. The problem is that he didn’t know back then. He’s 27 years old, never seen the pro world, but he’s got already four year of career under his belt.

Nine years later, that amateur player became a key senator in that league. J3 League wouldn’t be the same without his presence, through thick and thin with YSCC. We don’t know what the future will hold for the small club from Yokohama, but Akio Yoshida has reached (and probably overcame) the record of matches played in J3 against Iwaki FC. And that causes some celebration.

From Ashes to Ashes

Funny how it wasn’t always meant to be. Born in 1986, Yoshida attended Tokai University, where he was the captain of the soccer club. It’s heartwarming to read an old report over Yoshida’s profile: “I like English, I like the world”. Yoshida loved the team, and liked to know more about the world, beyond Japan. He even studied Spanish; he had a clear goal in mind: “One of the major purposes of studying communication is to help people”.

Nevertheless, when his stint at Tokai ended, he was subjected to a knee injury. In 2009, he stayed out of the game. He could have been the end… but he didn’t give up: “I will continue to do my best, always work hard”. In fact, a JFL club appeared. Unfortunately, not for much time because they didn’t have too much to live for, although with a character fit for Yoshida’s profile.

Arte Tatasaki – a small club from Tatasaki, in the Gunma Prefecture – were back then playing in the JFL. “Arte” means “art” in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Founded in 1996, they joined JFL in 2004 and had an amazing run in that year’s Emperor’s Cup (they reached the Round of 16 to lose to Jubilo Iwata). But they struggled to keep their place in the third tier, risking many times to go down.

When Yoshida joined in 2010, he was playing alongside some known faces: Nao Iwadate, Kenta Yamafuji, and mostly Yudai Iwama. After one year, though, Yoshida opted to come back to Yokohama, his home. Unfortunately, Arte Tatasaki will disappear in 2012 due to financial struggles. Nevertheless, Yoshida was ready for a new beginning.

Back Home

YSCC are in the end a rib from the first formation of Yokohama FC, formed by former ANA players in 1986. They kept their denomination, “Yokohama Soccer & Culture Club” from 1987, winning the first tier of the Kanto League in 2011. And that year, disrupted by the terrible Tohoku Earthquake, saw YSCC winning their division and joining the JFL. Yoshida was instrumental, as well for other protagonists.

Masao Tsuji scored 20 goals in his rookie year in the JFL, Kosuke Matsuda was a joker in different roles. Hikaru Ozawa represented a steady midfielder, while Takuya Takahashi was a promising keeper. YSCC ended their first in sixth place, while the second season saw a descent towards 13th place. Nevertheless, the crowd wasn’t that big: an average of 783 people watched YSCC games in 2013 (the one who witnessed Yoshida scoring against Marinos in an Emperor’s Cup’s derby from 2012).

That didn’t matter. Despite YSCC immediately struggling in the pro world due to different resources compared to other teams, Yoshida opened his account in J3 with 10 goals in the first season. He scored in every season but one from 2014 to 2021, putting together more than 200 games in the third tier, even evolving as a player – transforming from a no. 10 to a “mezzala” with the passing of time.

YSCC have been mostly a stable club, going through just five head coaches since they joined J3 (although they’ve already changed one this season). Yoshida had shared that path with historical members of the club, like Shunta Nishiyama, Kei Munechika and Kazuya Oizumi (all J. League with more than 150 matches in J3). Where others faltered, he’s still there.

Easiness in the mind

The secret must be found on one simple page: his profile presentation on the club’s website. Few info, but very revealing of the men before the player. He started to play football because they were already doing it in the family, following the example of his brother and sister. The happiest match of his career was the first one, although it’s not clear we’re talking of the maiden game with Arte Tatasaki in JFL.

The most disappointing feeling is losing, and a nice present is represented by some warm words. And his favorite artist is… you guessed it right: Jack Johnson. Not an accident that his favorite song is too from the American songwriter, “I Got You”. Just like JJ approached life in a simple and heartfelt manner, Yoshida transposed this philosophy within his path in football.

In that song from 2013, Johnson probably sang out all the feelings Yoshida needed to come this far with YSCC:

“I Got You

I got everything

I Got You

I don’t need nothing more than you”

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