Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The end-o of a generation

When Yasuhito Endo was installed as the top Asian footballer during the AFC Awards night in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, loose cannon's mind harked back to the time when he was among those privileged enough to bear witness to one of Japan's greatest generations. It was exactly a decade ago when Philippe Troussier formed a group of young samurais who took the footballing world by storm.

Today Endo and the likes of Yuji Nakazawa are in their prime, functioning as effectively as they were a decade ago.

Contrast that to the Malaysian class of 1999. Khalid Jamlus was a passenger in the Malaysia Cup final recently, while injury prone Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli who was introduced to his would-be wife Shahira during that trip to Japan, is no longer in the national set-up.

Among those who played under Hatem Souissi in Japan were Jamsari Sabian, Khairun Haled Masrom, Rosle Md Derus, M. Elangoo, M. Gopalan, S. Jayaprakash, Das Gregory, Gilbert Cassedy Gawing and Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan, with the majority of them born in 1977 and had formed the nucleus to the World Youth Cup team in Kuala Lumpur two years earlier.

2009 Asian Footballer of the Year, Yasuhito Endo, was a reserve in the Japanese Olympic team that boasted the likes of...

...Shinji Ono who five months after helping Japan to the runners-up spot in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Nigeria, bullied the Malaysian team into submission in the pre-Olympics

...while Masashi Motoyama's mazy dribbling skills on the right flank were unforgettable

...and Atsushi Yanagisawa is best remembered for his predatory instincts

Also in Troussier's team were Shunsuke Nakamura whose left peg is feared by the entire Scottish football fraternity and former Fulham and Arsenal midfield dynamo, Junichi Inamoto.

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