• LinkedIn
  • WhatsApp

Atsushi, a traveller seeking improvement

Atsushi Yonezawa is a Japanese player who has been travelling in Asia to fulfil his passion for football. Now aged 33, he plays in Bangladesh and still hopes to improve his game. Let us introduce you to this amazing character.

Japanese player Atsushi Yonezawa played in numerous countries in Asia and now is based in Bangladesh

Careers in football are rarely linear. The Paolo Maldinis of this world are not that common, even in elite football. And in the lower tiers, it is even less the case. Atsushi Yonezawa, a Japanese player, is a good example of this.

As many kids, the passion for football took him very early on. "When I was 6 or 7 years old, my friends were playing football after finishing class. They invited me to play, and I loved it", he explains to mycujoo.

Atsushi’s dad played at college and high school levels, but never had a professional career. But little Atsushi wanted to be a pro. "My parents supported me because they understood how sport can help children to grow-up", he believes. Eighteen in 2002, he followed the World Cup in his country, getting "excited when Japan qualified for the Round of 16. Unfortunately they lost to Turkey but it’s been a fantastic history for Japanese football."

However, opportunities to become a professional player are not that numerous in Japan, it is quite difficult to find your way. "I did not get offers from professional clubs after university. The Japanese market is not easy. Then I had two choices: I would stop playing football, or I would try my luck outside of Japan".

At first, Atsushi gave up his dream and worked for a technology manufacturing company, as a recruiter, for three and a half years. "While I was working, I still had football in mind. So I decided to start playing football again. But there was no chance to become a professional in the J-League."

Atsushi Yonezawa with his team, Rahmatganj MFS, in Bangladesh

That’s how Atsushi's journey abroad started. "I was looking for opportunities to play football in other countries. And at that same moment, a Japanese agent contacted me, asking me if I would want to have a trial in the Indian league. I accepted, and flew to India."

At 27, the Japanese midfielder played about two seasons at Royal Wahingdoh FC in the Indian League in 2013 and 2014. And had to adjust to a new country, a new culture and a new language. "Well, you know most Japanese are struggling with English, so it was hard for me to have a conversation with my teammates and the coach. Other than that, punctuality is not the strong point of Indians, so there were always some delays with training and games. I was irritated at the beginning, but the more I stayed, the more I got used to it (laughs)!"

However, Atsushi moved away after two seasons, signing for Persiba Bantul in Indonesia. It was a place where he adapted well and liked a lot. Football wise, Atsushi scored eight goals in 12 games, the best ratio of his career. "I played for Persiba Bantul, which is located in Yogyakarta, in the center of Java. It is very known for being a fantastic sightseeing city, attracting a lot of foreigners. As a consequence, the city has everything to make foreigners satisfied. Over there, I felt at home, like if I was in Japan."

The adventure lasted one season, then Atsushi tried a club in Myanmar (Zwegabin United) for six months, but came back to India relatively quickly, where he stayed for three years, moving to different clubs. It's a globe-trotting life which does not bother the Osaka native. "I actually like to be adventurous, visiting new countries gives me a lot of excitement!", he says.

In July last year, he then left for Bangladesh, and is now playing for Rahmatganj MFS in the Bangladesh Premier League, where he seems pretty happy. "Bangladesh football reminds me of Indian football. It is developing. They have talented young players. If they manage to have good coaches and facilities, I could imagine the national team improving a lot", considers this fan of Leo Messi and Neymar.

As a perfectionist, Atsushi always tries to improve his game. And he is very much interested in technology to do so. "I really would love if I could get the games I play from mycujoo. You see things very differently from the ground, it is really not the same if you have a TV view. It is particularly true to track individual movement. If I would manage to position myself properly during the game, I could save some energy and put more power and effort when I get the ball. I want to improve by analyzing my positioning."

Going further, the player believes that having more features such as number of meters run, heatmap, etc. would help even more the performances. "Football is getting more strategic and scientific. If we could get this data individually, that would be extremely helpful for the team..."

mycujoo is on it Atsushi!

Follow Atsushi on Twitter
Follow Atsushi on Instagram