The ‘Okazaki to Leicester’ stories had been doing the rumour-mill for many months before the Japan striker finally put pen to paper at the end of June and made the £7m switch from Mainz in the Bundasliga. I was actually informed of these stories at the turn of the year by one of my 10 year old students not that I believed her at first!
In June, Yoshinori Muto signed for Mainz linking up with his Japanese teammate although Tokyo Fox never thought it would be too long before Okazaki signed for Leicester. However, the rumours died down and I had pretty much given up on it until I woke up one morning (having slept in the car!) in Hokkaido in June and read that he had signed for the Foxes.
A few days later I was pretty stunned when manger Nigel Pearson was fired and one wondered who had actually signed the Japanese striker as Pearson was never in the pictures alongside him when he was unveiled, which is common place in football.
Okazaki isn’t the first Japanese player to be signed by Leicester though as Sven Goran Eriksson signed Yuki Abe in August 2010. Eventually I got a home shirt with “Abe 22” on the back but within a month of getting it at Christmas he had left citing homesickness but unperturbed by that I still wanted to get Okazaki’s name and number on the back of a new shirt. To my frustration, the club didn’t confirm the numbers until a few days before the season started which seemed wasted opportunity given that the shirt has been on sale since the last game of the 2014-15 season and will only last for this season.
The Samurai Blue star, with nearly 100 international appearances to his name, was in the starting line-up for the season opener at home to Sunderland which my wife and I watched in a bar in Phnom Penh on the back of what had been a very sombre day. It was my birthday too and I could hardly believe my eyes as we raced into an early 3-0 lead before eventually going on to win 4-2. Okazaki played a major part in that game and his tireless running and work was immediately appreciated by many City fans.
Things would get even better for him the following weekend as he scored his first Premier League goal in our 2-1 away win at West Ham United and below is the newspaper headline from the following day.
A few days after that perfect start to the season, a new city shirt arrived at the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre, complete with “Okazaki 20” on the back and Premier League badges on the arms. The King Power sponsor is a much improved logo and I can tolerate the Puma logo being gold but would prefer to see a white neckline. I’m not such a fan of the collar which has the cut of a modest ball gown and hangs a little too low revealing a bit too much of my hairy chest!
In response to a tweet I made about the new shirt, the editor of JSoccer.com requested that I send a picture of myself in it with a copy of the magazine for it’s ‘Look at me’ feature. As someone who likes to contribute content from time to time I was only too happy to oblige and said I’d get my ten year old student Yuko involved too. One or two of these shots should appear in the upcoming issue which also happens to feature the main man on the cover.
Soccer Shop Kamo is a popular shop in Tokyo with stores in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. They stock all kinds of shirts and merchandise and with Okazaki being a popular national team player one would think they might stock something to do with Leicester City. Wrong! Not a single thing in any of their stores which I have complained about and hope will be rectified in the near future as there are some fans of Okazaki who are interested in purchasing some Foxes goods.
Football can be a harsh game and a few games without a goal could quite easily see Okazaki make way for similar priced talent on the substitutes bench but thus far it’s been a fairly impressive start from the Japanese striker and long may it continue.
* On our penultimate day in Cambodia I was delighted to see some fake Leicester shirts for the first time on my travels around South-East Asia where such shirts are common place albeit usually only the big European teams. However, a shop in Sorya Shopping Centre in Phnom Penh was selling Leicester ones and so I bought one for my wife (shorts were also included!) for a fraction of the price ($4.40 or £2.90 if you prefer!) that it cost to get the real one. Many of my Twitter followers actually said they thought the fake one was better!
Click here to see ‘My Leicester City Memorabilia’
Click here to read my story about the infamous 1983-85 LCFC away shirt