The day before the J. League Seventeenth Sec.–Team Manager Finke  

Comment from Team Manager Volker Finke on the day before the 2009 season J. League Seventeenth Sec. against Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Tomorrow’s match will be the seventeenth sec. This means that we will have played with all the teams in the league tomorrow. Of course, we would like to gain three points for the seventeenth sec. by winning the game tomorrow. In order to win tomorrow, I think it is necessary for us to remain highly concentrated for 90 minutes to play really well.
The fact that we are going through a difficult situation still has not changed. As you all know, Tatsuya Tanaka and Tsukasa Umesaki have been away for a long time. On top of this, there are many other players who can not play in the tomorrows’ match due to their injuries. Hosogai can not also play in the match as he is suspended. Naoki Yamada can not play in this week end’s match either.
In regards to Genki Haraguchi, I had a good discussion with the team doctor and found out that he can play in this weekend’s match at this point in time. However, he still suffers from some pain in his knee depending on the type of movement he makes. Having said all that, as Keisuke Tsuboi is now back with us again, I am very much pleased about that.
We played an 11 on 11 game during training yesterday. It has been a while since we were able to do so. However, as we will be playing in 6 games over the next 25 day period in this very hot summer weather, it will be a tough period for us. For this reason, I must contemplate on how I put burden on my players. It is also necessary for me to assess the conditions of the players. It is important for me to put burden on my players accordingly by dividing them into several groups just like we did during today’s training.
We have played about 23 or 24 official games since the opening of this season. This figure includes the Cup matches as well as the League matches. I was not able to give my team enough recovery time during this period. In Europe, especially in Germany, after 17 official matches or 20 official matches including Cup matches, teams will have a three week break. Players can recover from their injuries and pick up their physical condition during this three week break over the winter.
However, it is impossible for me to have such a schedule in Japan. As this is the case, I think it is necessary for us to go through a series of matches by adjusting the burden I inflict on my players in our day to day training. I would like to put burden on my players appropriately as we have such a tough schedule. For this reason, I repeatedly divide my team into several groups during training. Having said that, our next opponent played in the preliminary matches of the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup. As they are also going through a similar schedule like we do, I am sure they have similar issues like we have.

(Keisuke Tsuboi had a light program with one group and then joined another group to play in a match during today’s training. What was your intention?)
This is a very interesting question. Traditionally, coaches decide all the practice programs and player’s training group as well as the amount of burden. For this reason, players do not change their training groups upon their preference. In regards to Tsuboi during today’s training, I wanted to see how he was. I wanted to check his condition by making him participate in the game style training. Since he was away due to his minor injury, I wanted him to play in the game style practice even for three or four minutes so that I could check his current condition and movement.
By having Tsuboi in the match, I gave Nobuhisa Yamada a break. As Yamada was suspended in the previous match, he was able to have good rest. He also went though a recovery program. As such, I put more burden on him during this week. For this reason, I replaced him with Tsuboi.
In regards to the game style training, I wanted to check Tsuboi’s performance. As such, it was not like he wished to play in the match. It was good that Tsuboi played well in the match. If his body will not react in a negative way tomorrow, I can say we had a very positive week this week.

(How was the result of Naoki Yamada’s second check up?)
Our team doctors conducted several checks with him over the past few days. Currently Naoki is feeling some pain in his back. Just like in Europe, doctors can not reveal information to outsiders in Japan. Since doctors cannot tell the condition of their patients to outsiders, I prefer not to comment on his condition in detail either.
Naoki played in many matches since the beginning of the season. He has also joined almost all the training we have had. As this has been the case, he might have had too much burden put on his body. Upon my discussion with the team doctors, we decided that it is better for him to have one or two weeks off.
Now, I would like to take this opportunity to ask you one thing. When you write about our medical team or players’ injuries, please do so in a fair manner. This is because some articles over the past few days depicted Naoki’s injury as an “unknown injury”. Those articles said that we would ask an external organization to examine Naoki since our medical team was not able to identify the cause of his injury. However, this is not the case at all. Our doctors and trainers are doing an excellent job. They are well recognized specialists in Japan.
For this reason, I would like you to report on them in fair spirit. It is not the case at all that we required external support since our doctors could not identify the cause. However, it is not uncommon that well-acclaimed medical teams work with external specialists and conduct checkups together. I think it is very important for them to work in collaboration. I would like to affirm right here that our medical team is excellent. I would like you to understand this. When you will write about our players’ injuries, I would like you to know that our medical team is doing an excellent job with their situations.
As a team manger, I feel that I am responsible for my players’ physical conditions. Please reconsider Naoki Yamada’s situation once again. He started to play in J. League matches regularly only since this year. He then became a national team player and has been selected to be an all-star team member. But, he is only eighteen years old. How can an eighteen year old body put up with so many burdens such as playing for the national team? As a team manger, I am very much concerned about him. I feel that I must make a responsible decision and take action for him. I am sure you were once eighteen years old. Please think of your physical condition back then. How much can an eighteen year old body put up? So many things have happened in such a short four month period and so many burdens were inflicted upon him. Under such circumstances, as a team manager, I may give him time off or make the decision of not letting him play in official matches. However, when I make such decisions, please do not write that “Team Manager Finke crossed Naoki off”.
I make decisions in order to protect my team players. Of course, it is important for him to play in matches and perform well. However, at the same time, it is important for him to have a break at the right time. I would like to be responsible for his future development. To sum up what I just said, the most important thing is the development of my players. I may make them have a little break as part of the process. Our goal is to have each player to continuously develop himself so that they can play well for Urawa Reds, the Japanese national team and even the all-star team in the future. Players must go through this path step by step. It is understandable that the media seeks for new star players. However, it should not be forgotten what kind of conditions such players are having. It is necessary to assess such conditions. It is not good for Naoki to feel rushed either. Having said all this, I have no intention of criticizing the media. As such, I would like to apologies in advance.

(Your next opponent, Sanfrecce Hiroshima seems to have their own style.)
As far as we are concerned, we have no intention of matching our play style to that of our opponents. We have our own style that we always have had and we would like to play in our own way in the match tomorrow as well. It is important for us to pass the ball among the team and control the game in order to play our own game. However, it is necessary to consider the current climate. It is not good enough if we just run. We need to change our rhythms and we must decide the tempo of the game. Certainly, how we run and how we move without having the ball is also important. It is necessary for each position to work well with one another as a team.
Sanfrecce is such an interesting team. They play fascinating football as a team which has moved up from J2. For example, the football Sanfrecce plays is not like just kicking the ball forward and other players follow the second or third ball. It is not like the goal keeper kicks a long ball towards the tall center forward player and the center forward receives the ball with a header either. They build the game well from behind and pass the ball among the team with the aim of scoring goals in coordination. Playing like this is essential when playing “fascinating” football. In reality, many teams kick a long ball after passing the ball among the team only a few times. However, Sanfrecce builds up the game well and then aims to score goals.
Of course, kicking a long ball is one element of football and we should not forget that. It is not my intention to deny long ball play. However, kicking long balls all the time is not our play style. For example, if the Japanese National Team kicks a long ball against the Australian team all the time, then it is not a wise decision. What we value is to kick a long ball at the right time while building up the game.