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Former J-League goalkeeper Enomoto picked by national blind soccer team

Tatsuya Enomoto takes part in a national blind soccer team training session in the city of Chiba on April 16, 2017. (Mainichi)

Former Yokohama F Marinos goalkeeper Tatsuya Enomoto has been selected as the official reinforcement designation player for Japan's blind soccer team, it has been learned.

    The 38-year-old soccer star, who has played in a total of 223 games in the J-League, decided to take on this role for the national blind soccer team -- having announced his retirement as a professional player in December 2016.

    Enomoto is still very new to the game of blind soccer, but his rich experience in the J-League, and more recent involvement as a coach at J-League team FC Tokyo, should stand him in good stead for his latest challenge. The veteran also has experience of playing on a J-League-winning squad, with the Yokohama F Marinos, and at one point he was regarded as a "goalkeeping god."

    Blind soccer is a game in which every player apart from the goalkeeper plays with a blindfold. Typically, all players apart from the goalkeeper are visually impaired. One of the goalkeeper's main roles is to guide the outfield players with verbal instructions such as "right foot, right foot," whenever the ball is nearby, or "right, drop back!" to indicate the presence of an opposing player.

    At a recent training camp in the city of Chiba that ended on April 16, Enomoto took part in a number of blind soccer games. His powerful voice stood out well. As soon as the practice sessions came to a close, he admitted in a raspy voice that he was "worn out," but that, "It's been a long time since I lost my voice. It feels great."

    Enomoto's involvement in the national blind soccer team has pleased the players, too. One of the stars of the national side, 28-year-old Ryo Kawamura, expressed his contentment about the former goalkeeper's presence: "It's reassuring to have a player with so much experience working with us."

    The coach of Japan's blind soccer team, 49-year-old Satoshi Takada, is delighted as well. "We wanted a physically large player with experience of playing at the top." At 190 centimeters tall, and with a weight of 82 kilograms -- as well as experience of playing in the J-League until recently -- Enomoto certainly meets Takada's needs.

    Takada is also full of praise for Enomoto's shot-stopping ability. In blind soccer, outfield players are heavily influenced by verbal instructions from the goalkeeper, and they will often strike the ball as soon as it is at their feet -- because they are being told that the ball is on its way. Enomoto's strength is that he gets into position early, ready to save shots, and this is a good skill to have in blind soccer. As Takada points out, "Enomoto is good enough to play for the team right now."

    With the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 on the horizon, Enomoto wonders, "Am I good enough for this role (of reinforcement designation player)?" -- taking into account that he also coaches at FC Tokyo. However, with his commanding vocal presence, which is somewhat reminiscent of the former Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, Enomoto should be fine: "The players depend on my voice. Thinking about how to guide the players with my voice is something that interests me."

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