Japanese sisters eye title defence

I’m very proud of my sisters. I hope they achieve everything they desire with Japan at the Women’s World Cup in Canada.

When Yuki Ogimi and Asano Nagasato were given this message by FIFA.com at the Japanese team hotel, their faces lit up. “Is that really from Genki?” they asked, disbelievingly. Over 10,000 kilometres away in Asia, their brother Genki had indeed decided to surprise his sisters in Vancouver with a short, yet inspirational message.

“It’s because of him that we started playing football,” revealed Ogimi. “We obviously talk a lot about football when we’re together. Our parents used to play basketball and we would all play with each other, but when Genki took up football we followed suit.” Time has proved that the two sisters made the right decision.

Supportive family

Yuki and Asano are hoping to help the Nadeshiko defend their title at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. “We want to be world champions again,” announced Ogimi, who appeared in all six World Cup matches in 2011 and is a key member of the current squad in North America. “We can’t be happy with our performance against Switzerland. We need to improve. Kozue Ando’s absence is a big blow for us.” 

Nagasato, meanwhile, hopes to play a pivotal role from the bench in Canada. The forward took part at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008 and was even named in the tournament’s All-Star XI. “I will try to help the team, whether I’m in the starting eleven or a substitute,” she said. Ogimi nodded, before adding with a twinkle in her eye: “My sister is often too hard on herself, but she’s also very pretty.”

Another member of the family will be cheering the sisters on at the tournament in Canada.  Their mother has accompanied them on the long trip, while their father is attending Japan’s upcoming match against Cameroon. “Genki can’t come unfortunately – he’s got to play himself,” the two girls explained in unison. Their older brother is currently under contract at Thai first division side Ratchaburi Football Club.

**London calling

**Genki, a 29-year-old midfielder, also revealed in the message to his sisters that Yuki is shy and does not like talking in front of other people. “Oh, that used to be the case,” said Ogimi. “Although I do enjoy doing things by myself every now and then. We’d always be together otherwise. I need my peace and quiet.”

“That’s exactly what I don’t like about you,” said 26-year-old Nagasato with a smile. She has been plying her trade at German Bundesliga side Turbine Potsdam since the summer of 2013, signed as a replacement for her older sister, who joined Chelsea from Turbine two years ago.

In the three years leading up to her move to England, Ogimi had been one of Potsdam’s standout performers and had helped them win numerous titles, including three league championships and the UEFA Champions League. Japan also won the World Cup in Germany in that same period.

After just one and a half years in London, however, Ogimi returned to Germany to sign for Wolfsburg, much to Nagasato’s delight. The sisters are now able to see each other two or three times a month, either in Potsdam or in Wolfsburg. “We go shopping and enjoy our time together. Our family in Japan can only visit us up to twice a year.”

Shopping is also on the sisters’ agenda in Vancouver, but they have not had much time so far. Their focus is very much on their upcoming World Cup assignments. No distractions are permitted – they are not even allowed to share a room at the team hotel. “That was the coach’s decision. It’s a shame really,” laughed Nagasato, before the pair take their leave and head off for lunch - together.