Inspiring a new generation: The incredible influence of Takumi Minamino in Japan

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The arrival of Takumi Minamino at Liverpool created history and was met with jubilation back in his native Japan.

As Minamino put pen to paper on a deal at Anfield he not only committed his long-term future to the club but he also became the first player from Japan to sign for Liverpool.

A landmark signing in a multitude of ways, with his versatility and the ingrained traits needed to hit the ground running for Jurgen Klopp’s side obvious even in just his two appearances against the Reds.

But back in his homeland his signing was met with equal jubilation, quickly shedding light on the vast influence and significance his arrival at the club would have.

Minamino is, of course, already a star in Japan, with his time at Salzburg and his 22 appearances and 11 goals on the international stage being watched on by a vast audience invested in his exponential rise.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 5, 2020: Liverpool's new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 235th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 24-year-old made his debut for the Reds in the FA Cup victory over Everton, and his first time on the field in the Premier League will see him become just the ninth player from Japan to ply his trade in England’s topflight.

And while he has many onlookers intent on seeing how his careers pans out, those of Japan’s Official Liverpool Supporters Club are seeing their “dreams” come true as they watch Minamino play for the club they love.

Japan has a healthy Liverpool supporter base and the club has played competitive fixtures in the country on four occasions, all in the World Club Championship, now commonly known as the Club World Cup, in 1981, 1984 and 2005.

And This Is Anfield spoke to Yumiko Tamaru, the secretary of Japan’s supporters’ club (@lfcjp), to gain an insight into the significance of his arrival both on and off the pitch.

 

What has the reaction been like in Japan following Minamino’s arrival at Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 5, 2020: Liverpool's new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 235th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The reaction to Minamino’s transfer to Liverpool has been massive in Japan, and his arrival will definitely attract more Japanese fans to follow the club. 

When Liverpool announced the signing of Minamino, it hit the headlines in all of the media and since then more Japanese sports media have started to cover stories about Liverpool. 

There has been no day when you don’t see news about Minamino or Liverpool since his signing. Liverpool is big in Japan now!

I am the admin of our supporter club’s website and the number of visitors to our website was around 1200 per week before the announcement of Minamino, but since then it has been around 7400. 

A lot of people have also contacted us asking how to get Liverpool’s match tickets!

 

What does it mean to you to see a player from Japan play for the club you support?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 2, 2020: Liverpool supporters with a banner for new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Sheffield United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As a Japanese Liverpool fan, it is really, really great to have a Japanese player at Liverpool. 

It is hard to describe how I felt last Sunday (against Everton) when I saw him standing in the players’ tunnel, kicking the ball when the first whistle was blown and playing in front of the Kop. 

I couldn’t help but cry.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 5, 2020: Liverpool's new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 235th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I never imagined something like this would happen. A Japanese player playing for Liverpool!!! Even now, it feels like I am having a dream.

Liverpool FC is a family club, and I have always felt close to the club and the city of Liverpool. But now, after he joined, I feel much closer to the club and the players. 

I think all Japanese Liverpool fans feel the same way now. It is really a wonderful feeling.

 

What are your expectations for his career at Liverpool?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The fact that we have the world’s best front three will make it difficult for him to start every game. 

It is likely that he will start in matches against the sides that sit lower in the league table or as a substitute so that Klopp can rest the likes of Firmino, Mane and Salah. 

But the good thing about Minamino is that he is a versatile player. He can play in any attacking position and I think his versatility will make it relatively easy for him to get opportunities to play.

It would be great if he could shine, making assists or scoring goals. 

But I don’t want him to feel too much pressure. I just want him to enjoy training with world’s best players and playing in front of the most passionate fans in the world, learn a lot from his teammates and the manager and improve as a footballer.

 

How significant do you think his impact will be in Japan now that he has signed for the Reds?

When you find kids playing football in Japan, you will see that most of them wear Barcelona or Real Madrid kits. 

But I think more kids will start to wear Liverpool kits if he flourishes at the club. 

We have an LFC Soccer School here in Japan and they have almost 400 kids and they must have been dreaming about being a Liverpool player one day. 

But now, I think being a Liverpool player is not a dream for these kids to dream about any more. Now, it is a realistic goal for them to be achieved, ‘it is something that will happen to you someday’.

I think this is massive to Japanese kids playing football.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's new signing Japan international Takumi Minamino (R) celebrates with captain Jordan Henderson after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Minamino will be a big inspiration to other Japanese players too. 

I think more Japanese players will aim to play for Premier League clubs and I believe that if there are more playing in the world’s best football league it will raise the standard of Japanese football.


Thanks again to Yumiko, you can follow Japan’s Official Liverpool Supporters Club on Twitter and Facebook.

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