The day before the J. League Thirteenth Sec.-Team Manager Finke  

Comment from Team Manager Volker Finke on the day before the 2009 season J. League Thirteenth Sec. against Omiya Ardija
We finally managed to have game style training today as we had an away match this week and had to stay over night after the match. For this reason, this week seemed to have passed so quickly.
For the next match we play, on top of those players who are injured, Naoki Yamada is suspended and Satoshi Horinouchi cannot play either due to his injury. For this reason, we will have different members for our next match. However, I am not at all trying to make an excuse here in case we lose.
I would like to work hard with the accompanying members to achieve the best result we can.
Since our current situation is as I have just explained, it is impossible for our complete full members to play in official matches. However, every team will have such a period when several members of the team have to be replaced due to injuries and suspensions during a long football season.
We are going through such a period right now. However, in three or four weeks time, those players who are away to join the national team will be back to our team. I also think that players like Tatsuya Tanaka and Hirakawa will be able to play in matches again. Certainly, we are going through a difficult situation at the moment. Nonetheless, we will do our best tomorrow so that we can have a better result and hopefully gain another three points by winning the game.
Ponte may be able to play in matches again in three weeks time. Surely, it is a tough time for us. But, I will trust the current members and we will do our best to prepare for the match.

(The next match will be a derby match. You had derby matches against VfB Stuttgart when you were with Freiburg in Germany. Considering the power structure at that time, it was like Freiburg challenging VfB Stuttgart. For the derby this time, is it more like Urawa Reds being challenged by Omiya Ardija?)
It is difficult to compare this year’s match. It is true that I was told that Urawa Reds has been better off than Omiya Ardija in terms of the yearly budget, number of spectators as well as the amount of financial resources that can be invested in the team. In Germany, VfB Stuttgart was a bigger team than ours and they had better players in many matches we played. However, it was possible for us to win derby matches against them. If my memory serves me right, we won both home and away matches against them over three years. For this reason, it is not always the case that the team that is expected to win can win in derby matches. As for us this year, we do not have several main players with us nor have we obtained new players by paying lots of money either. Since we are also going through a reform this year, I cannot say that we are the one to be challenged and expected to win just because we have a larger annual budget and spectators.

(What derbies are famous in Germany?)
There are really famous derbies in a true sense as well as the ones made to be famous derbies.
In regards to Freiburg, there was the derby played against Karlsruhe as well as VfB Stuttgart and it was a derby in the true sense. However, as Karlsruhe was relegated to the second league and did not come back to the premier league for eight to nine years, we could not play against the team many times. Nonetheless, it was a derby match many local players were looking forward to throughout the year. There was also another derby between Hamburg and St. Pauli. Since St. Pauli was relegated to the second league as well, there was no official match played between the two teams. However, as they are geographically close to each other, I think the match between them would be a true derby. Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke is another very famous derby and since Bochum is geographically close to them, Bochum vs. Schalke as well as Bochum vs. Dortmund are also famous derbies. These traditional derbies are very important derbies many local supporters really look forward to. Speaking of Stuttgart, the team had three or four times more annual budget than Freiburg. However, we cannot compare Freiburg that I was leading back then to Omiya Ardija. It is not that Urawa Reds has four or five times more budget than Omiya Ardija and we have different play styles.
Freiburg always played aggressive football regardless of whether it was a home match or an away match. We were the one that led the game and we played very autonomous football. However, Omiya Ardija is the type of team that tries to secure defense first. After their defense is secured, they have counter attacks. I think they practice completely different football. I heard that the team manger of Omiya Ardija clearly states that “playing football is to run first”. As this is the case, they play very defensive football based on their abundant stamina before they make counter attacks. For this reason, it is impossible to compare Omiya Ardija to Freiburg that I used to lead.

(What derby match do you remember well?)
I remember derby matches we played in Germany really well. The one I remember very well and have such a good memory of was one FC Freiburg played when the team was still very small and had just joined the premier league. It was when the team had only three secs to play and was expected to be relegated.
In order for the team to get away with the relegation, we needed five more points. At that time, we only got two points for wining a match. Under such a difficult circumstance, we played an away match against Stuttgart. This was a very famous derby match played in Land Baden-Württemberg.
At that time, Stuttgart was very close to be able to play in the Europe Cup with one more point. They also had many famous and experienced players in their team. For this reason, it was such a good experience for our young players to be able to win the away match with the score of 3 to 0. We also won the following two games and got two points at that time. We miraculously survived and remained in the premier league.
This was a famous story of a dwarf against a giant. It is fun to challenge such a derby match as a dwarf. We think of many things such as what we can do in order to have a better result. However, a dwarf can be crushed by a giant in the end at times. Another typical scenario was that a giant obtained many well regarded players by paying lots of money so that he can remain to be a giant. Such teams have enough financial resources to do so. I have experienced this over the past long years and I felt somewhat frustrated by the fact that good players whom I raised would be transferred to another club. However, I had great pleasure in finding nameless young players and raising them to be good players.
For this reason, since coming to Japan, I get great pleasure when I look at young players such as Naoki Yamada work on their talent and develop to be good players.
When I first met the people of Urawa Reds, I was told clearly that this year will be the year for reform for the team. They said clearly that they would like to nurture good players by themselves rather than paying expensive amount of money to acquire good players like they had been doing until then.
Of course, the board members of the club have changed since then. But, I decided to come to the club because of what they told me. I think that the club still holds the same policy to nurture good players towards the future.
However, we should not forget that young players tend to make more mistakes than older players do as anyone who has experience in the football sphere knows. But, players can gain lots of different experiences and develop themselves through their mistakes. It is difficult for young players not to make many mistakes. But, if we do not give them the opportunity to play in matches, they can never develop themselves. As this is the case, team managers must try to use young players more often despite the fact that they make mistakes. It is certainly understandable when team mangers try to use older players who have less chance of making mistakes due to various reasons such as being under pressure by being ranked low on the ranking chart or cannot afford to lose a match and so on. However, it is important to create an environment where players are given many opportunities to play in matches and learn from the mistakes they make based on the strong principle to nurture players.

(A player from your team is suspended, which is the first suspension in the J. League. Your team seems to get many warning compared to other teams. Do you give any advice to your players so that they will not get any warning?)
After I checked some statistics, I became aware of the fact that our team players are given relatively more yellow cards than players of other teams. I do not want to loudly comment on each yellow card our players received. But, as for the fourth yellow card Naoki received during the match against Gamba Osaka, even though it was given after the foul Naoki made against Endo, when I checked the recorded footage, I could not see Naoki touching Endo. Please check with Endo directly whether he was pushed by Naoki.
For this reason, when my players are given yellow cards like that, I cannot give any advice to them. It was a situation where usually no yellow card will be given.

(According the official record, the forth warning Naoki Yamada received was for making a deliberate delay.)
As I did not read the record in Japanese, I cannot comment on why he was given the yellow card here. However, as far as I saw on the recorded footage, after Endo fell on the ground, Naoki made it clear that he did not make Endo fall. Right after that, Naoki was given the yellow card. For this reason, I am not sure what action made him receive the yellow card. However, I would like to refrain from discussing the performance of Japanese referees. I would like to finish here about making any comment on referees especially about the chief referee.

(What do you think of actions made by players such as making objections to referees?)
In order for me to comment on such questions, I need to know more about Japanese situations. I would like to wait to comment until I have the opportunity to observe in details what is happening on the pitch in Japan. This is because the way referees blow whistles are completely different from the way it is done in Europe not to mention what really happens on the pitch.
But, in my opinion, it is vital for each player to have his own emotion when playing football. I think that being emotional makes football a very interesting sport. Players are not robots and it is impossible for them to hide all their emotions. It is in a way very natural for them to show their emotions when they face some kind of situation on the pitch. Of course, I am not suggesting that I condone some unfair deeds. I do not think anything unfair should happen on the pitch.
However, we cannot ban our players from being emotional on the pitch. If we do so, players have to find a hardest wall in his house when he goes back to home every night and hit his head hard against the wall. Otherwise, they cannot let go off their emotions.
I regard my players as having strong discipline. I do not think they are given yellow cards based on extremely rude actions. As this is the case, I would like to state clearly here that I trust my players and I do not think they behaved rudely.

(During today’s training, one of the main players, Takahara was with the team.)
If all of our players are back, we will be having seven or eight players playing in three or four different positions and this will increase the number of options we have.
However, now that several players are away, Naohiro Takahara is one of the very important offensive options we have. In reality, Takahara was showing fantastic performance during the preparation period. For this reason, he was one of the starting line-up members for the opening match. Since then, as you all know, his performance was not at its best. As such, he has not been one of the starting line-up members recently. Nonetheless, he played on the pitch for a relatively long period of time. I am sure you all saw how he tried to make contributions to the team as much as possible. For this reason, I regard him as one of our important options. I try not to comment on our next match too much in details here, but there is no doubt that he is one of the members I am considering.
This is also the case with all the options I have. Another example is Naoki Yamada.
He was not one of the starting line-up members for the first three matches we played. Since then, he became one of the starting line-up members, and then became a national team member as well. In this industry, so many things happen at once and we do not know what happens next. Things turn out to be both good and bad. For this reason, I cannot guarantee that things will take a certain path based on the information from several weeks ago.
Another example is Edmilson. He was struggling quite a lot during the preparation period. Since then, he went trough tough training to build up this endurance. For this reason, he might have gone through such a difficult time. He was not one of the starting line-up members for the opening match either.
However, he worked brilliantly during training and has become one of the important main players now. I think the team is alive. Situations surrounding players change constantly. As this is the case, I cannot tell clearly what happens next based on the current situation.

(What did you think when you found out that Naoki Yamada was selected to be one of the national team members?)
I was not surprise by the fact that he was selected to be a member. This is because I was informed a few days earlier that this may be the case.
However, I do not want to make any comment on this in public at the moment.
The only thing I can say is that he fits in our team well and his play style suits our play style very well. He is a very important team member for us. As a matter of fact, he has always made a valuable contribution to our team.
I am certain that he will develop to be an excellent player in the long run.
However, as it is evident in what was covered in newspapers over the past two days, when a player is doing well or become successful, for whatever reason, so many people start to claim that they raised him to be where he is. Many people here and there raise their hand to say that they discovered him and raised him. Since there are so many people who claims to be his mentor, I do not think it is necessary for me to comment on him for the media. As this has always be the case since olden days, there are many mentors for successful players. For this reason, I do not think it is necessary for me to worry about him any more. Team mangers must work hard for those players who are yet to be successful. I still have a lot to do (lol).

(Are you still worried about the fact that the media pays too much attention to Naoki and Haraguchi?)
Since I am invited as a guest here in this country at the moment, I would like you to understand that I have no intention of making some comment regarding this in public now. I once told a young player that he should not talk too much to the media. However, I was criticized by some of the media very harshly at that time. Some articles even warned me. For this reason, I do not wish to comment on this theme any further here. But, by looking at how the current press report with an outsider perspective, I can see that even though Genki Haraguchi was receiving super star coverage about seven to eight weeks ago, he has been replaced by Naoki Yamada. For this reason, another “face” will be attracting the media’s attention in a few weeks from now. I would like to introduce you to a new player to show how well I can respond to such rotations (lol).
If we can have another young player, it is not that bad for our team either.

(You will play in the next match in Saitama Stadium, which will be regarded as an away match.)
I think it is important for us to do our job in an environment we are very much used to. I have great pleasure playing in the stadium we often use and have many supporters come to cheer us. However, I think there is some kind of fascination playing in a small stadium as well. We have not played in the other stadium of Urawa Reds. But, I know the stadium is there and we have also played in the stadium in Omiya for our training match during our pre season preparation period. I think there is some kind of benefit playing in such small stadiums such as the pitch being closer to the spectators.
Of course, I am excited to be able to play in our big and fantastic stadium. I am sure Omiya Ardija will have as much excitement as we do for our next match. I think it will provide a big stimulation for them as well to be able to play in front of such a big crowd.

(What kind of impressions do you have about city of Urawa and Omiya?)
I watched a match held in Omiya before. That was a match Omiya played against Shimizu and I thought the stadium was fantastic.
The passionate and devoted cheering Omiya’s supporters gave the team made a strong impression on me. I can see many fascinating things about playing in such a small stadium. Spectators are close to the pitch and depending on the situation, supporters can hear what players are saying on the pitch.
I felt such fascination a small stadium can offer since when I was in Germany. We also played in such stadiums. Playing in a stadium with no track and field tracks is also a wonderful experience for players. Small stadiums allow spectators and players to unify as one, which is fantastic.

(What do you think of the cities?)
Please spare me more time (lol). I need more time as I am not familiar enough with both cities to the point where I can make comment on Omiya and Urawa publicly by comparing both cities.