Wednesday 15 August 2018, 23:17

Experiences shape Japan captain Minami

  • Moeka Minami is Japan’s captain at France 2018

  • Though only 20, the central defender boasts plenty of experience

  • She spoke to about her role and career so far

Experience is not something that 20-year-olds are supposed to possess in abundance. Yet for coaches of teams in the age group it can be a determining factor when it comes to choosing a captain.

The player entrusted with Japan’s armband at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018 is Moeka Minami. One of the oldest members of the Young Nadeshiko squad, she is also one of its most talented, and one of the few to have taken part in two previous FIFA World Cup competitions already and won one of them.

The central defender was only 15 when she helped Japan win the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, where she made one appearance, in the 10-0 defeat of Paraguay. Four years on, on the day after a 6-0 win over La Albirroja in the group phase at France 2018, Minami spoke to about the experience she has acquired in her short career already.

Her experience as captain

Minami took on the Japan captaincy a few months ago, leading her side through the continental qualifiers for France 2018. Though honoured to have been given the job, she also describes it as a difficult one.

“I just try to guide the team towards what I think is right,” she said about the post. “I try to get all the players pulling in the same direction, to ensure that everyone is happy, that no one is neglected and that there’s a balance in the squad.”

Team captains Moeka Minami of Japan and Maite Oroz of Spain shake hands

“Moeka is someone you can rely on both on the pitch and off it. She knows exactly how to take our team in the right direction.” Japan forward Riko Ueki

Her U-17 World Cup experience

No fewer than 15 members of Japan’s 21-strong squad have World Cup experience, with most of them having featured at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, where Japan suffered a painful penalty-shootout defeat to Korea DPR in the final. Minami has happier memories of Costa Rica 2014, where she, Fuka Nagano, Asato Miyagawa, Mizuka Sato and Fuka Kono lifted the U-17 World Cup trophy.

“It was a memorable occasion obviously,” she explained. “It’s an advantage to have World Cup experience, but I’m not the only one in the team who does and I don’t feel more experienced or privileged than anyone else. And I don’t feel superior in any way either.”

Her Russia 2018 experience

As Japan captain, Minami was invited to take part in a FIFA workshop held in Russia during the recent FIFA World Cup™, the aim of which was “to inspire the female leaders of tomorrow”.

“It was very rewarding to be able to speak to captains from other teams,” said the Japan skipper. “We spoke about the role captains should play in their teams and the importance of leadership in a group. I have to say that the discussion and the advice we were given have helped me with the job I’ve had to do for my team in this competition. I also took the opportunity to go and see some matches and to visit Moscow.”

Her France 2018 experience

Having scored two wins to emerge from a tough group that also contained Spain, USA and Paraguay, Japan have put themselves on course for another final appearance. It is a path they know well.

“We’ll see,” said their skipper. “We can be proud of the fact that we’ve already done as well as the Samurai Blue did in Russia this summer [at the World Cup]. They made us want to go and excel ourselves too.”