INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: 'TATSU' SAKAMOTO
One of our three acquisitions comes from Japan/ Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, or as he prefers: 'Tatsu' or 'Saka'. For the past two weeks he has been staying at Hotel Ter Streep together with his manager and interpreter. We sat down with them for an extensive interview.
Tatsu, welcome to Ostend. You have been staying at Hotel Ter Streep in the center of Ostend for two weeks now. How do you like it here?
Anyway, I'll probably get my apartment next week. I am really looking forward to that! I really like staying in the hotel, but I would prefer to have my own place. Then I can cook myself and I am less limited in that respect. I sometimes go to the Chinese-Asian store in the center of Ostend, but to be able to prepare a good meal with those ingredients, I need a good kitchen.
You say it yourself, the differences in culture are there. What are the biggest changes for you?
The language for sure. In Japan, just about everyone on the team spoke Japanese, but that's completely different now. Everyone here prefers to speak their mother tongue and the language of training is English, because almost everyone understands that. I still have some difficulties with that, but I am currently busy learning English. I am doing well and I have noticed a real improvement in myself.
Back to the food: wate you usually eat here?
Of course, I prefer to eat the dishes that are typically Japanese. But here at the club we don't get that (laughs). At first I thought I would have a lot of trouble getting used to the typical meals after training but it's not that bad. I just eat potatoes with vegetables and a piece of meat like all the other players here. I even tried some Belgian fries in the center and they were delicious! On my first day here in Ostend, I ate a shrimp cocktail with Team Manager Bart Brackez at Brasserie Albert in the Thermae Palace Hotel. I was quickly immersed in the local culture and I love that!
Do you have family or friends here that you can meet up with sometime?
No, not yet. I am currently staying here only with my broker who also acts as interpreter. We are already very good friends. As soon as I move into the apartment, my wife will come too, along with our three-month-old baby. Yes, as a brand new dad I do miss them both. I have already arranged to meet Tsuyoshi Watanabe. He is a Japanese player who also made the move to the Belgian league this winter. He plays at KVK and luckily Kortrijk is not that far away. We plan to see each other from time to time in the future, because it's always nicer when you can spend some time with someone who speaks the same language.
Sportingly, KV Oostende unfortunately dangles at the bottom of the standings, does that bring a certain pressure?
Yes, but you just have to be able to deal with that pressure. There are still a lot of matches to play and we are still in a safe place. Of course we have to do everything we can to not end up in penultimate place. I hope I can do my bit for that. But to be honest, I am surprised. The atmosphere in the group is good and the level of training seems good enough for me to move up in the rankings. I already watched a few matches last weekend, including those of STVV. There will soon play a great example of mine, Shinji Kagawa. I'm really looking forward to playing against Sint-Truiden, because there are a lot of players there that I've encountered before in the Japanese league.
Why did you choose KV Oostende?
When I was told what system they played here, it appealed to me. There was also interest from America and Germany, but none of those offers really appealed to me. KV Oostende, on the other hand, seemed like the right next step in my career. It's the perfect team and the perfect competition where I can develop myself further.
What is your favorite position?
My preferred position is that of right wing attacker. But I can also play perfectly on the left. My qualities lie mainly in the attacking compartment. In Japan, Thomas Vermaelen was once my direct opponent. We lost, but it was an instructive experience to play against such a seasoned player.
What do you think is the biggest difference between the Japanese and Belgian leagues?
As I said, I watched some matches last weekend. It struck me that the speed of switching is much higher. In Japan, we often used a patient build-up, but here it's completely different. If you win the ball back here, then you often have to go forward with the whole team to get it. transition play execute well. That means that when you recover the ball, you should not think about a pass to your goalkeeper, but get to a scoring opportunity as quickly as possible. I still have to work a bit on that, on that mentality. But I'll manage that. That's also a reason why I wanted to come to Europe. Because I can improve enormously here. And specifically Ostend because they use that fast changeover system here. I hope to make a lot of progress in Belgium, just like Takehiro Tomiyasu (ex-STVV). Then maybe I can make the move to a big team abroad. But well, that's for later. For now I have to work hard to bring KV Oostende, together with my teammates, to a safe place in the standings!
Are you physically ready for the game against Antwerp?
If it's up to me I can definitely play, but I'm not sure yet if that will be a full game. It will soon become clear to me, depending on how high the intensity is. I have had an excellent preparation the past two weeks. There was the practice match against RWDM, among others. That worked out very well for me. I could get ready perfectly and gain some experience within the team. Whether I will play against Antwerp? We will see. It's the coach who makes the choices, but I'm ready for it.