Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo said today he is willing to risk his place in the Serie-A side to play for Japan in a domestic charity match to help victims of the quake-tsunami disaster.
"It is not that I don't have any worry but there is something more important than myself," the 24-year-old told reporters as he arrived in Osaka for the 29 March match there pitting the national team against a J-League select.
Nagatomo moved to Inter from Cesena after Japan won a record fourth AFC Asian Cup in January. He has since been in and out of the Inter line-up as the FIFA Club World Cup champions try to overtake Serie-A leaders AC Milan. "I have not come here just to play a match. I want to show how important it is not to give up. We must help many people gain courage and hope," the full-back saud.
European clubs have released 12 Japanese players for the charity event, a replacement for a friendly against New Zealand which was cancelled after the earthquake and tsunami disaster and the subsequent of nuclear emergency.
"Everybody has cared about Japan. Everybody has been cooperative," the hard-running player said, showing a football shirt autographed by Inter manager Leonardo and teammates. "I want to use it for charity."
The former FC Tokyo left back was seen carrying a red-sun Japanese flag, reading "You'll never walk alone", with teammates on the pitch after Inter beat Bayern Munich 3-2 on 15 March to reach the UEFA Champions League last eight.
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe also returned home, taking a timeout from his midfield duties for Wolfsburg. He said the Blue Samurai managed to book a historic last-16 berth at the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa last year and regain the Asian Cup due to support from home fans.
"I will play all-out and make them feel something, although it may not be enough to repay them for their support," said the 27-year-old. "The news of the disaster has been reported as the top news in Germany every day," he said. "I was feeling impatient as I could do nothing there. I wanted to come home as soon as possible to do something for Japan."
The European-based players in Alberto Zaccheroni's squad also include CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda and Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida.