I really wanted to buy a Leicester City jersey of Shinji Okazaki while I was in Japan. But I couldn’t find it. There were plenty of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, and Yuto Nagatomo shirts. But where was Okazaki? He is the top scoring Japanese Bundesliga player of all time and third highest international goalscorer in the Japan national side. Where is his shirt?
OK, it’s no secret that Okazaki isn’t as popular compared to his superstar compatriots. Heck, even Atsuto Uchida is way more popular because of his “good looks” (a fact confirmed by my Japanese colleagues — even though Uchida is already married and hasn’t played at all this season because of injury). Okazaki is not the type of player to score spectacular goals like Honda, neither does he possess the technical flair and dribbling skills of Kagawa. What he does excel at is with his plain, raw hard work ethic. He runs like hell all over the pitch. He tries to position himself at the right place and right time in the penalty box to pounce on whatever opportunity that comes by.
And then he scored with an overhead kick against Newcastle, and all of a sudden everyone is finally giving him the attention he deserves. One of my online friends once called Okazaki “useless” in FIFA 15, to which I very curtly and bluntly replied: “Fuck you.”
Everyone always pays attention to players like Messi, Neymar, and Suarez. I don’t deny that they are fantastically gifted players. But sometimes, even the ordinary man is capable of extraordinary things. Look at Jamie Vardy. Two seasons ago he was playing third-division football. Now he is competing for the Premier League golden boot and helping Leicester to an unexpected league trophy. I hope the Foxes win because it will prove that you don’t need to spend hundreds of millions to win trophies.
Sometimes, all you just need is heart, determination, and some pizza.