Nakata scores in charity match in support of victims of Japan’s earthquake
Story by Stefanus Ian/REDintern. Photos by Tan Jon Han/Red Sports.
TAKE ACTION Foundation chairman and former Japan International Hidetoshi Nakata (Albirex #7) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second-half. Despite retiring from football in 2006, Nakata was in town to lend his support for charity for his fellow countrymen back in Japan. (Photo 1 © Tan Jon Han/Red Sports)
Jalan Besar Stadium, Saturday, April 2, 2011 — In front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 fans, Albirex Niigata, with guest star player Hidetoshi Nakata in the team, strolled to a 7-2 victory over the S.League All-Stars.
Despite the short notice, the supporters came in droves with the Japanese expatriates forming a large bulk of the crowd. In a game where the goals flowed, Nakata and FAS President Zainudin Nordin were among the high profile names who got their name on the score sheet.
The match began with a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the recent Japan earthquake and Tsunami. The S.League All-Stars started the match at a high tempo looking to get an early goal however, the Albirex defence stood firm.
With Nakata starting on the bench, Albirex relied on Tsuyoshi Kitazawa (#8) to provide the creativity in a crowded midfield. Despite being more than twice the age of some of the players on the S.League All-Stars, his skill and vision carved out chances for Albirex.
The first goal came as early as the ninth minute when a rushed clearance by Obadin Aikhena (#6), who plies his trade with Gombak United, rebounded off his own teammate. Bruno Castanheira (#19) was on hand to take a shot at goal but it was Tatsuro Inui (# 20) whose lob into the net from a rebound off Shahril Jantan (#14) put the Swans ahead.
However, the lead did not last long as Obadin turned hero this time, scoring a header after a poor clearance from the Albirex defence after a corner kick. It was clear that the players were trying to entertain the crowds with much of the play being on either end of the pitch.
In the 27th minute, Albirex were awarded a penalty after Afiq Yunos (#4) clumsily brought down an Albirex forward. Masaaki Sawanobori, a fromer Japanese International, stepped up to send a tame shot to the bottom left corner which Shahril Jantan (#14#) did well to save at the second attempt.
However, his scrambling save resulted in an Albirex player accidentally knocking into him, causing what looked like a head injury, and he was soon substituted with Izwan Mahbud (#1).
The end-to-end action continued with the S.League All-Stars looking to fully utilize their target men. The physical presence of their strikers, Fazrul Nawas (#17) and Vitor Borges (#10), allowed them to hold up play before feeding the balls off to their wingers.
Singapore international Hariss Harun (#7), the All-Stars starting captain, was also effective at the other end winning possession often and providing a stability to the midfield.
The S.League All-Stars defence looked shaky at times and this proved the case in the 35th minute when Tatsuro Inui (#20) managed to shrug off Obadin to slip by the defence and square the ball for Bruno Castanheira to score his second of the night.
Just before half-time, Kazuki Kobayashi (#5) added another goal. After a swift counter attack left Jeremy Chiang (#3) out of position, Kobayashi received the ball from another cross by Inui before scoring from an acute angle. This left the S.League All-Stars trailing 1-3 at half-time.
Both sides made changes to their line up after the break but nevertheless, the flow of goals continued in the second half with Nakata playing in a central position, dictating play and orchestrating many of the team’s attack.
Despite his lack of fitness, the technique and vision aspects of his game was still as sharp as ever. His introduction soon proved effective as he played Shotaro Ihata (#12) through to score despite Mahbud’s desperate attempt at clawing the ball off the line.
After setting up one, it was time for the player that everyone had come to watch to score. Just after an hour of play, a looping cross by Ryuta Hayashi (#2) was expertly controlled by the former AS Roma and Bolton Wanderers player before volleying it home to loud cheers from the crowd.
Richard Bok tried to turn things around, bringing Fazrul Nawas back on for Vitor Borges. The S.League All-Stars looks disjointed in the second half with more than a few misplaced passes. Paul Cunningham in particular seemed more than willing to join the attack when the opportunity arose, showing quite clearly that the players were treating this as more of a charity exhibition game.
True enough, Zainudin Nordin, the president of the FAS, was soon brought on in place of Fazrul Nawas. Five minutes from time, Nakata played a sweet through ball to Yosuke Saito (#9) before he was fouled by Sirina Camara (#12) of Etoile FC.
Albirex Nigata also seized the chance to bring on their “VIPs” who won the auction for a “Bench Seat” alongside Nakata in the dugout — a middle-aged man and a young boy named Deen Martin, both clad in Albirex colours. The young boy wearing the same jersey number as Nakata stepped up to take the penalty which Izwan Mahbud kindly let in.
The next few minutes saw the late substitutes score a couple more goals. Zainudin, clad in a #23 jersey, capitalized on a mistake by an Albirex defender to put his name on the score board. There was just enough time left for Deen Martin to score another goal after picking up Nakata’s cross near the six-yard box much to the delight of the crowd
It was probably the perfect way to end this charity match with Nakata fulfilling his promise of entertaining the crowds with goals aplenty and a great deal of attacking football.
During the post match conference, his humility was clear.
“There are many good players who want to play and I need to give them the space and opportunity to do that,” said Nakata.
He was very grateful for the support of fans who packed out Jalan Besar Stadium.
“This means a lot to the people in Japan who are suffering,” said Nakata.
In his last spoken message in his native Japanese, he repeated the sentiment and thanked everyone who come down in support of the charity match.
For those who missed the charity match, fret not, as Nakata revealed that plans are under way to arrange more of these kinds of charity matches and he might organize another one in Singapore as early as next year.
Jalan Besar Stadium stands silent as the players observed a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. (Photo 2 © Tan Jon Han/Red Sports)
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