The Japan team in Thailand is the oldest side ever to participate in a FIFA Futsal World Cup, with an average age of 32 years and three months. Little wonder, then, that it also contains the oldest players ever to compete at the tournament in the shape of Kazu Miura and Tetsuya Murakami, both of whom are 45.
The presence of such wise old heads has been a blessing for the team’s youngest player, Katsutoshi Henmi, who at just 20 is a full quarter century younger. Speaking to FIFA.com, Henmi discussed how much he is looking forward to learning from his veteran team-mates.
The player of the tournament at the AFC Futsal Championship 2012, midfielder Henmi is full of praise for the pair: “They’ve seen so much in the course of their wonderful careers and they’ve taken part in so many tournaments. They’ve got so much experience and they’re always trying to pass it on to the younger players.”
“It’s an honour to be taking part in the Futsal World Cup,” he added. “Every player in the world dreams of participating in a tournament like this. It’s especially important given how young I am, which is great for me because the whole world is watching. It’s a real honour.”
We're aiming to qualify for the next phase and all our work so far will only be worth it if we can do so.
Henmi was born in Japan in 1992. Two years later his parents emigrated to Brazil where he lived for 14 years, picking up the basics of futsal before returning to the land of his birth in 2008 to start his professional career. He currently plays for Nagoya Oceans with whom he won last year’s AFC Futsal Club Championship.
Japan’s opening game in Thailand against Brazil was an emotional occasion for Henmi, who also goes by the Brazilian name Rafael: “I was nervous before the first match, especially because it was against Brazil. I grew up there and it was very moving on a personal level, because I was facing players I consider to be my idols.”
Japan may have come out second best in the end, but Henmi and his team-mates recovered to put on a stirring performance against Portugal, with Henmi himself knocking in the equaliser. The diminutive playmaker is proud of the fight his side showed: “It was an incredible match for us and I’m personally delighted to have scored against Portugal. Scoring is something that matters to me, but it’s the team’s result that matters most.”
Japan’s next task is to secure victory over Libya in their final group C game in order to qualify for the second round for the first time in their history. It is a vital game and Henmi is taking it with the seriousness it deserves: “We're aiming to qualify for the next phase and all our work so far will only be worth it if we can do so. We have a tricky game, but the chance is there for the taking, and we’ll be doing everything to go through. Libya are an excellent side and they’ve got a few seriously talented players of their own.”
With a record like his, Henmi will unquestionably be giving his all throughout Japan’s Thailand 2012 campaign. At stake is a place in the history books as well as a chance for the youngster to gain more valuable experience.