Katsumi Yusa: The shy Samurai who made it big
When he landed here in India, Katsumi Yusa used to find it hard to take a good nap because of the constant humdrum. However, after spending half a decade in the country and having travelled all over it, he has finally mastered the art of filtering the noise and getting a sound sleep.
Not only this, the Japanese has also managed to win the I-League for his team Mohun Bagan and has not only turned out to be an important cog for the team from Bengal but also made a name for himself as one of the most effective foreign midfielders playing in the nation. Obviously, his fame made it to the ears of the management board of NorthEast United FC, the Indian Super League franchise, who have signed him up for the third season of the cash-rich league.
And it seems that the move is already paying dividends after the former ONGC player scored the team’s winning goal against Kerala Blasters in the opening game.
Katsumi was born on 2nd August, 1984 in the Fukushima province of Japan, and debuted for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2007. Despite having a contract for 3 years with a J-League club, he was given a meagre 50 minutes on the pitch during his entire stay, so he started looking for other options abroad.
Eventually, he landed up on Indian shores and started off by plying his trade for ONGC in 2010. His contributions were vital in giving the corporate team the promotion to the first division of the I league, after which he eventually signed for the Mariners in 2012.
The Japanese player is best suited in an attacking midfield role, and he usually starts off on the left or right side of the midfield for Bagan, in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Yusa frequently changes his position with other players, which makes him difficult to mark. He may be very shy off the pitch, which would explain why he ran off from the media on his bare feet after his first ever training session for the Calcutta club, but he is never afraid to express himself on the pitch.
Having being gifted with great ball control and balance, Katsumi is an expert at taking on defenders and drawing them towards him, which leaves spaces open for others. Some have called him a showboat for trying to do too much with the ball all alone when there are better options available, but the 33-year-old doesn’t mind the allegations. In fact, he enjoys the hatred he generates, especially from the East Bengal fans.
Discipline and self-control are two of his biggest traits Yusa possesses, and these two have helped him make it big in India so far. He follows a fixed routine and diet, without exception. Having gotten adjusted to the spicy Indian food, the Japanese now cooks his own brunch and trains hard every day.
Whenever a foreign footballer comes to play in India, he almost always finds the heat the biggest challenge here. Katsumi was no different, as it took him more than 2 years to acclimatise to the conditions over here. However, once he was done with that, the shy Samurai took centre stage for the Green and Maroon brigade, as he forged a lethal partnership with Sony Norde to lead his team to the coveted I-league title in 2014-15.
It was one of the defining moments of his career, and he is eager to replicate it once again. Having been overlooked by the ISL franchises for the two opening season, getting picked up by NEUFC is no doubt a nod to the unquestionable talent and work ethic the Japanese possesses.
For those of us who regularly follow Indian football, it was a surprise to see Yusa not being signed and players of lesser ability with almost zero experience of Indian conditions being drafted in but it seems that finally that wrong has been righted. It remains to be seen how far the John Abraham co-owned team makes it to in this edition, but as the first game has already showed us, it is obvious that Katsumi will play a huge role in it.
After the ISL, Yusa will return to play for Bagan in the Federation Cup and the I-League, and given how wisely the Mariners have strengthened their forward line by signing up the likes of Darryl Duffy, I am sure the Japanese will be eager to showcase his magic once again.