Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eddy Bosnar will always be 'Big in Japan'

Eddy Bosnar.
It's a long way from Fairfield to Mount Fuji, but Eddy Bosnar is not your average footballer. After spells in Croatia, Austria, England and Holland, the tall Australian defender has finally made a home for himself at one of Japan’s most popular clubs, Shimizu S-Pulse.

A cult hero on the terraces at Shimizu’s compact Outsourcing Nihondaira Stadium, Bosnar has worked hard to win over fans since his switch from Chiba-based J. League rivals JEF United. “My form has been OK as I worked very hard in the pre-season and also while I was back in Australia for my Christmas holidays,” the defender told Soccerphile. “The system we play at S-Pulse has also helped as it is easy to adapt to and the players are of great quality.”

By no means a certain starter when he arrived in Shimizu, Bosnar had to fight with three other central defenders for a place in coach Kenta Hasegawa’s starting eleven.

But his all-action style and passionate displays have won over fans, and his cause has been helped by a couple of spectacular long-range goals – including a 40 metre free-kick against Kyoto Sanga. “I stay back at training on Wednesdays, Thursdays and maybe even Fridays to get the distance and power right for the weekend,” Bosnar said of a powerful free-kick technique which leaves opposition defenders begging for mercy.

It’s clear the much-travelled defender has a strong work ethic, but life in Japan hasn’t always been easy for a player who started out at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Lured to the Land Of The Rising Sun by his former Dinamo Zagreb coach Josip Kuze, Bosnar saw the Croatian tactician sacked just four months into his reign at JEF United. New coach Alex Miller was a fan of the aggressive defender, but the Glaswegian was unable to halt JEF’s slide into the second tier, and when the Chiba outfit were finally relegated in 2009, Bosnar jumped shipped to one of their biggest rivals. Standing in the shadows of the towering Mount Fuji, Shimizu’s atmospheric home ground is bursting to its 20,000 capacity on matchdays as fans clamour to see their side battle with the likes of Kashima Antlers and Urawa Reds.

“The fans at S-Pulse are fantastic, home games are great and really enjoyable for everyone. Bosnar said. “I have had family and friends visit and they think it is electrifying.” Shimizu are one of just five clubs to have played every season in the top flight, but so far a first ever J. League title has eluded them.

The club will forever be linked to one of the most dramatic moments in J. League history, losing the 1999 championship playoff on penalties to local rivals Jubilo Iwata and prompting English coach Steve Perryman to break down in tears on the bench. Shimizu are hoping to avoid similar heartache this time around, but even if the popular side miss out on the title, they still have qualification for the AFC Champions League to fight for – a competition Bosnar believes is increasing in relevance.

“I think that the Asian Champions League is the best thing that could happen to football in Asia,” he said.

“The biggest problem is that most clubs and fans support the domestic league more so sometimes you get half full stadiums. Although it is getting more significant to the football followers in Asia.” Winning plaudits, scoring goals and doing so in front of an adoring public; given his personal success in Japan, would Bosnar recommend the J. League to fellow Australian players? “Firstly, Japan is a great place to live so every player would enjoy being here. Also, the league is of high quality, the players are true professionals and the facilities are fantastic,” he said. “All you have to do is train and play well week in, week out and you could make a great career over here. If any players regardless of age get a chance to play in Japan they should accept the offer, that’s my tip.”

His name regularly rings out and the Australian flag flies high on the terraces of Outsourcing Nihondaira Stadium, but if Bosnar can help Shimizu S-Pulse land the J. League title they so desperately crave, club officials could be tempted to erect a statue of the lanky defender in the main street of town.

After all, he may be a giant in the Shimizu back four, but it's not every day an Australian footballer gets 'Big in Japan.'

Michael Tuckerman

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