There is a Japanese proverb “Nana korobi ya oki” which, when translated, means ‘Fall down seven times, get up eight’.
Celtic fans today would almost certainly not have known this at the time but in early 2017 it was fortuitous that a certain young Japanese player had taken this message very much to heart.
Kyogo Furuhashi was finishing his fourth year at Chuo University and was participating in a series of trials at various J-League clubs. However, whether it was Shonan Bellmare, Matsumoto Yamaga FC or Mito HollyHock he was unable to secure a contract.
“Due to the pressure, every time I participated in the practice, I went back to the hotel and vomited,” he admitted in an interview with Sportiva in 2020. “Because of that, I thought I should give up [my dreams of playing professionally] and I told my parents.”
They were willing to accept his decision and told the young Kyogo “If you want to quit, quit. It’s okay.”
However, he wasn’t quite ready to give up.
“After that they quietly told me that the efforts I’d made so far would have been wasted and resolved to do everything I could to make sure I wouldn’t regret my decision”
“I continued to participate in the pursuit of a contract at a J-League club, and eventually was able to do enough to receive an offer from FC Gifu at the last minute.”
With that his journey into the life of a professional footballer had begun.
Born on the 20th January 1995 in Nara Prefecture, Kyogo, first began playing for Sakuragaoka FC and Aspegas Ikoma FC before joining Kokoku High School where he became a classmate of future Liverpool forward and Japanese national team mate Takumi Minamino.
From then it was on to Chou University in 2013 where he was selected for the All Japan University team and graduated four years later where but for the keen eyes of the scouts at Gifu FC it might all have ended then and there.
He was introduced to the fans as “a player who is good at dribbling at speed and has excellent technique” and it wouldn’t be long before he was displaying that technique. In May 2018 he was named J2 player of the month following several fine displays in which he scored in five consecutive games.
The J-League selection committee described him as “one of the most wave-riding players right now and is supporting [his] team’s breakthrough.”
Such performances weren’t going to go unnoticed and three months later was snapped up by Vissel Kobe for £135,000 where he joined a squad filled with established stars such as “The V.I.P”; Villa, Iniesta and Podolski.
It was during this stage of his career that he first came to the attention of current Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou who at the time was manager of Yokohama F. Marinos.
Furuhashi’s attacking skills and smart, aggressive offensive instinct saw Furuhashi score 42 goals in 95 appearances for Vissel and helped the team collect their first major trophy as they lifted the 2019 Emperors Trophy on New Year’s Day 2020.
In June 2021 Postecoglu moved to our club and within a month he had secured the services of the forward for around £4,850, 000. It would be long before the fans would see why he had been chosen as the new boss’s marquee signing.
“Kyogo was always going to be my first pick because I had witnessed at first-hand what sort of player he was,” Postecoglou told the Daily Mail. “I had no doubt he would be successful.”
It wouldn’t be long before he would make an impact and within six months of his arrival he would prove instrumental in acquiring the first silverware of Postecoglou’s reign with a brace against Hibernian helping the Bhoys come from behind to secure a 2-1 victory.
Following the game legendary Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner told BBC Sportsound: “Postecoglou deserves huge credit for bringing in a superstar in Kyogo. He spotted him, nurtured him and turned him into an absolute icon of the sport within a few months. Normally that takes years.”
Turning 27 last month the Japanese forward currently has 14 goals and three assists in 26 appearances for the Parkhead side and it’s already apparent that he is a special talent; however, time will tell how high his star will rise.
Nevertheless, his relentless attitude and determination to overcome adversity is an inspiration and I will finish with a further quote regarding his views on the challenges that lie ahead:
“I will challenge the wall that stands in front of me and I think that people can grow through repetition. [In the future] the wall will become taller and bigger and I want to … overcome it by hitting it, breaking it, and overcoming it.”
Rob McCarry is a regular CelticBlog contributor.