18 year-old Ryo Miyaichi currently plays for Eredivisie team Feyenoord, on loan from Arsenal.
--- What inspired you to start playing football?
Ryo: All my friends who lived nearby played football so I think that's how I started. My dad though has been playing baseball ever since, and he wanted me to do the same (laughs). But he eventually agreed when we convinced him that I'll play football to "strengthen my legs" "
--- I hear that your father is the head coach of Toyota Motor Corporation's corporate baseball team
Ryo: Yes. Even when I got to middle school, my dad kept telling me "Son, it's not too late to switch to baseball"
--- I hear that you played baseball in grade school
Ryo: I was a pitcher until the 6th grade. But I gradually enjoyed football more so I eventually focused on football.
--- Who was the player you idolized growing up?
Ryo: I started watching football in grade school and was following the Nagoya Grampus Eight. I really enjoyed watching Stojković (current Nagoya head coach) back then. Recently I've been following Cristiano Ronaldo.
--- It's been said that your playing style is similar to Cristiano Ronaldo's.
Ryo: That's really flattering, but I'm not a star like he is and I sill can't make plays like he does. But that really flatters me, and I'd like to do my best and become a player who can seriously be compared to him
--- When did you want to become a Pro athlete?
Ryo: This might be vague, but I've always thought about that since I was small. I think it's important to have a goal and keep on challenging to achieve that. That's why I kept training with my mind set on becoming a pro football player.
--- Hasn't your playing style changed from when you were a child?
Ryo: It has, I was a sideback when I was in grade school. I wasn't the type who would challenge with my dribbling skills, but I was the "worker type" who would run back and forth the touchlines the whole game. A lot of players tend to change their positions towards the back as they grow older, but I think it's rare for someone to go forward.
--- What inspired you to change you playing style?
Ryo: It actually changed when I entered Chuukyoudaichuukyou High and Coach Douke saw my abilities. We have actually been contacting each other since middle school as he kept giving me advice, so I was aware of his intentions from that time. That's why I can't talk about my current playing style without mentioning coach Douka's name.
--- What sort of advice did you get from coach Douke?
Ryo: I was mainly playing as a right sideback until middle school, but Coach Douke assigned me on the left wing. He also taught me how to dribble towards the center, and how to avoid opponents, and my perspective and philosophy towards football changed after that.
--- What kind of training did you do until you reached this playing style?
Ryo: I believe that the first touch is important so I trained hard with that in mind. I kept focusing on crossing the ball with my left foot and dribbling towards the middle and shooting with my right. I did that a lot, whether I was alone or with the team
--- Miyaichi, you really have a "stoic" image going around you there
Ryo: Is that so? I really don't know about that. But there's always this voice inside me telling me that "It's no good at this rate!". Do I want to end like this, or not. I still want to enjoy playing football, and I never want to give up. I always want to become a better player
--- I hear that you've been invited to play for a club team
Ryo: Yes. I was contacted by the Nagoya U-18 and the Kashima Antlers Youth teams. But Coach Douke was the first one who got in touch with me so I never really had any doubts as to where I should go. The high school football stage has always been a dream of mine since I was small and I really intended on going to Chuukyodaichuukyou High school
--- What left the biggest impression on you from coach Douke's teachings?
Ryo: He taught me a lot everyday, but it's probably the words he kept on telling me, to "Help the weak, crush the strong". I always keep that in mind, both on and off the pitch.
--- You were the captain of your high school team. What sort of mental attitude did you possess whenever you tried to win, and when you tried to increase your personal level?
Ryo: For everyone in the team, whether or not he would be playing in the match, to be united as one. As the captain, I gave the most importance to the organization of the team. On a personal level, I never let my guard down. I always think that there will be someone who will be paying attention to every single move that I make so I keep that in mind as I play since I don't want to disappoint these people
--- On your 2nd year in middle school, you were selected on the U-14 Japanese National Team. What was your feeling when you were putting on the uniform of the land of the rising sun?
Ryo: At first, I couldn't believe that I have been selected for the National Team, so I was really surprised at myself thinking "Is it really alright for me to wear this!?". But as I gathered experience in training, the sense of responsibility gradually sank in
--- When did you first start thinking about "The rest of the world"?
Ryo: It must be when I first played in an international tournament. I felt that especially during the 2009 U-17 World Cup
--- What kind of tournament was the U-17 World Cup for you?
Ryo: It was a vexing tournament for me as I wasn't able to start the matches. The team also got eliminated in the group stage and I really felt that there was a huge gap between us and the rest of the world. That's when I once again realized how vast and difficult the world can be
--- Please comment further on that 'gap with the rest of the world' that you mentioned
Ryo: First, is their will to win. I really felt that everyone else tried to use that tournament as a spring board. Their determination showed in how they challenged for the balls, and eventually results to the quality of the game and the final score. Of course I also had a strong will to win when I went into the tournament, but still, the gap with the rest of the world was really that huge
--- On contrast, did you find something that you think would work against the rest of the world?
Ryo: I only played for a very short amount of time, but I think that my dribble and speed worked against them. That gave me confidence
--- The 2009 U-17 World Cup members are being called the "Platinum Generation". What sort of impression do you have on the rivals who are from your age group?
Ryo: I believe that we are comrades who stimulate each other to succeed. In reality, there's already quite a lot of those guys who are playing in the J-League. But I never feel any pressure from them, and I just want to go on at my own pace
--- Are you the type who doesn't get nervous on the big stage?
Ryo: Yeah, I thik so. I don't think I ever get nervous when playing football. On the contrary, I hate school presentations and such... (wry smile)
--- But didn't you have to face a lot of people as the Captain of the soccer club in your high school?
Ryo: I hated that when I was in grade school, but finally gotten used to it recently (smile)
--- You were able to train in Arsenal and Ajax, 2 top level clubs in the world last year. Please give your honest opinion of that experience
Ryo: I was very confused and nervous since it was my first time joining the practice of other people. But living alone overseas has been a good experience for me
--- What kind of things did you keep in mind when you were training with them?
Ryo: First of all, I wanted to aggresively talk to them and mesh with the other players. I thought that everyone would remember me as long as I appealed to them that I'm a Japanese
--- What can you say about Arsenal's training?
Ryo: I really felt that the player management system was pretty solid, as the instructions were pretty detailed, like we should only drink water with the proper temperature and stuff. As for the player that left the most impression on me... no, all the players were amazing! (laughs). Especially Theo Walcott who plays in the same position as me. I thought that he was really fast.
--- Comparing yourself now to Walcott, what kind of gap do you feel?
Ryo: We do have a gap in experience and skills, but I don't think it's that overwhelming. I felt that my strongest asset, which is my speed, worked against them so that gave me confidence
--- But technique-wise, especially with your feet, I personally thought that Miyaichi is better
Ryo: No, that's not true... Well, I did have the impression, not just with Arsenal but with everyone, that their crosses seemed rough...
--- Meaning that they were not providing precise and efficient high balls, right?
Ryo: You're right (laughs)
--- In your training with Ajax, you got into an accident that left you with an injury right?
Ryo: Yes. It was a shock for me to get injured, but I take it as a plus on my part for experiencing first hand the so called "true intensity" of challenges. So if I take it positively, that was actually a good experience for me
--- Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Ryo: Well, this is just my hallucination but I think I'll be a world class player by then (lol), so I'll do my best to make that happen. I also want to play in the biggest stages. So of course, I'm aiming for a spot in next year's London Olympics team, as well as the Brazil World Cup 3 years from now.
--- Lastly, what message do you have for middle and highschoolers in your generation?
Ryo: Speaking from my experience, I think that it's important to analyze yourself and think what you want to become. Know what you currently lack. If you find that out, you can grow further. I've been playing football with that sort of mindset. Of course, I'm still no good. If I'm aiming to become 100, I think that I still haven't even reached 10 yet. So that's why I want to do my best, just like everyone in my generation. I'm always aiming for the top.
The Borussia Dortmund player in still in rehab in Japan after his injury [broken metatersal] during the Asian Cup in January. He could start light training in less than two weeks and he has been hoping to go back to the squad in April.
Shinji and his fanboys Tokio Hotel tyfyt