Berlin - Head coach Jos Luhukay knew him from his time in Augsburg. Hertha fans have gotten to know him since he joined the team at the beginning of the 2013/14 season - Hajime Hosogai. The Japanese midfielder was in the Hertha starting eleven for every league game so far this season, with the exception of last weekends game, and has completed the full 90 minutes on most occasions. The 27-year-old is a key central midfielder in head coach Luhukays’ system.
Hosogai is relatively modest, rather reserved and shy off the pitch. Herthas success is always his priority and therefore, is highly regarded within the team for his achievements and has quickly become accustomed to living in the capital. In an interview Hosogai tells us why he decided to become a footballer, about his home country Japan and Japanese football, and the World Cup this coming summer.
Hajime Hosogai fighting for the ball with Stuttgarts Boka
herthabsc.de: Haji, Japanese football has been booming over the last couple of year and many of your fellow countrymen have found their way to the Bundesliga. When did you start playing football?
Hajime Hosogai: I started playing when I was 7 years old, the same year the J-League was established and football became a professional sport in Japan. My two older brothers played football and I wanted to play too. I always wanted everything that the other two had (laughs).
herthabsc.de: For example?
Hosogai: It went so far that my mother would have to bake me a small cake on their birthdays. Otherwise I would be sad and cry.
herthabsc.de: Let’s get back to the football. You are a total professional, sometimes the coach has to ask you to slow down. Why?
Hosogai: I am very ambitious and believe that you can always improve. If a professional is missing something, then it’s ambition. I am not technically gifted, so I have show and play with other qualities. This includes a lot of training and hard work. An example: I'm not the biggest, so I have to jump higher than the others. And that you have to train.
herthabsc.de: You had four German coaches (Buchwald, Engels, Osieck, Finke) while in Japan. Did they teach you German virtues such as discipline, passion and fighting spirit?
Hosogai: At the time, I would never dreamed to think that I would play in Germany. In retrospect, it was fate that exposed me to Germany and its football culture so early. The winning mentality is not as strong in Japan - especially not in training. The German trainers epitomised this in training and I was lucky to have experienced this so early. I am glad that everything turned out the way has.
herthabsc.de: Speaking of coaches - what role has you current coach played in your career?
Hosogai: I’m very grateful to Jos Luhukay. He brought me to Augsburg and was crucial in the move to Hertha BSC. I try to repay his appreciation and trust towards me with good performances on the pitch.
herthabsc.de: Many Japanese players have found their way to the Bundesliga in recent years. What are the major differences between the J-League and the Bundesliga?
Hosogai: The game in Germany includes quick forward play and the pace is much higher. In Japan, there are more unnecessary passes and crosses. My style of play also includes quick forward play, so I fit in very well to the german game.
herthabsc.de: Do you keep in touch with other Japanese players in the Bundesliga?
Hosogai: Shinji Kagawa and I get along very well. We stay in contact, even though, he no longer plays in the Bundesliga. We have a ‘Line’ messenger group with the other Japanese players in the Bundesliga which helps us keep up to date with what is going on.
herthabsc.de: It’s been said, that Japanese players are not born to shoot at goal. You have achieved just three goals in 74 league games. Why is that?
Hosogai: It is not nice, not being directly involved in the goals and it is a big challenge to try and change that, however, my main role is to stabilise the defence. I would not mind scoring more often though (laughs).
herthabsc.de: The World Cup 2014 will be held in Brazil. Japan is in the same group as Colombia. Will there be a “Ramos vs Hosogai” duel?
Hosogai: The World Cup would be a dream come true for me and I would be very happy if played against Adrian. This would also mean that we have both been selected to play for out national teams.
herthabsc.de: Has your coach already inquired about Adrian?
Hosogai: Yes. Adrian is a great player. His performances are being closely followed in Japan.