Tokyo: One of the most iconic players in Japanese beach soccer history has moved into a new role that will further his influence on the trajectory of the game in the country.
Ozu Moreira was named the new head coach of the Japanese beach soccer national team on Thursday, taking over from Ruy Ramos.
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Ozu has been a key figure in raising the profile of the discipline in Japan. He led the team to the AFC Beach Soccer Championship, where he was the top scorer and most valuable player, on the road to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019.
In Paraguay, Ozu captained Japan to a fourth-place finish, equalling the nation's best-ever performance in competition history. He was also awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.
Speaking about the appointment in June on the official Japan Football Association website, Ozu said: "With the team reaching the top in Asia, we must now prepare ourselves to reach the top of the world. Both as a player and a coach, I will give my utmost efforts to promote the sport and strive to showcase the strength of Japan.
"The Japan Beach Soccer National Team is about to face a generation change," said Tsuyoshi Kitazawa, Chairman of the JFA Futsal Committee.
"Mr. Moreira is a person who is fully aware of the world trends and the current situation surrounding the beach soccer scene in Japan, which makes him the perfect fit to spread JFA’s mid/long-term vision to the Japan beach soccer community and carry out the rebuilding process of the national team, both as a player and a coach."
This week Ozu was officially introduced in an online press conference where he also confirmed that veteran defender Teruki Tabata will be his assistant coach.
"I am grateful to be given such a wonderful opportunity during such tough times," Ozu said.
"I will try to build on the strong foundation coach Ramos has built for us at the previous FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and work closely with my teammates and staff to become world champions.
"Acting as a player-coach is not an easy task, but I hope I can aide the team with a wide perspective, both as a player and a coach. I have played in Japan for a long time, but I also have the experience of playing overseas and working with many coaches all over the world, so I hope to utilise my experience to help the team.
"Currently, we are seeing many new talents emerge. I hope to give these young players plenty of opportunities and build a strong team that can showcase a great harmony between the veterans and young players.
"A player must focus on their own duty while playing on the pitch, but with coach Tabata assisting me while I play as a player, I am not worried at all."
Sources: FIFA.com, FIFA via Getty Images, AFP
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