Manabu Yamashita is captain of the Japan men’s national team and he is more than ready to lead his team out next year in front of a home crowd at the Tokyo Olympic Games. This will be Japan’s sixth appearance at an Olympic Games – they last competed in 1968 – and it is easily the largest international competition that the current team has experienced but there are many signs that Japan are ready to meet the test.
A surprise first place finish at the 2018 Asian Games, saw Japan beat Malaysia in the final. The Samurai also finished ahead of other higher ranked nations, India, Pakistan and Korea. A member of the senior national team since 2011, and with 186 international caps to his name, 31-year-old Yamashita is Japan’s most experienced player but even the cool-headed midfielder will be dancing if Japan performs well on the home stage.
What are your thoughts about playing for your country at a home Olympic Games?
Manabu Yamashita: “I am very excited and I cannot wait for the Olympic Games to take place in my country. I feel extremely lucky. I will be very proud to be representing my country and singing the national anthem on the pitch.”
What made you first pick up a hockey stick?
Manabu Yamashita: “At school I played football, but at one point my school team was short of players and I was asked to help out. That was the beginning of my hockey career.
Who would you say has been important in your career as an international hockey player?
Manabu Yamashita: “I think everyone. That includes all the coaches and players I have worked with. I would not have built my hockey career without every single one of them.”
How did your team stay connected during time away from the pitch due to Covid-19?
Manabu Yamashita: “We had weekly meetings where we discussed strategy. But we also had several online fun sessions where we did a lot of dancing and drawing. We had ad-hoc meetings and did some activities for kids.”
Profile*: Manabu Yamashita
Shirt number: 13
International appearances: 186
Place of birth: Japan