Today GGOA is delighted to introduce a brand new feature to the site, with the first in a series of typically contemplative pieces from Steve that come under the heading of Agent Orange...
I have never known an Omiya team without the numbingly slow reflexes of Hiroki Aratani between the sticks. I have never seen an Omiya team without the looming threat of Hiroshi Morita lining up at the top and killing all offensive momentum with an errant shot or awful pass. I have never attended an Omiya game without the lurking fear that Takuro Nishimura would come into a game and make a crucial mistake that would cost us a goal, or send us a man down with a particularly clumsy foul.
I have experienced this dread for as long as I have been an Omiya fan. At first, it wasn't strong. Most of my early supporter angst had been caused by a portly dirty blond by the name of Tuto, who now finds himself thrilling the masses in Shonan and who managed to hit everything but the back of the net, displaying the accuracy of an old Iraqi scud missile. It wasn't until he left that the blinders of Tuto hate were removed and I was able to see the true ineptitude of these three fantasistas. It seemed that in every game they could not get head and body on the same page.
Now they are gone.
For two and a half years, Aratani was the starting goalkeeper for Omiya. He never let the squad get completely embarrassed, but there was always the fear that he would concede a soft goal to doom the team to another loss. On one occasion, he faced one shot... and lost the game 1-0. In 2007 he started to put together a string of decent performances and looked capable in net, but a forearm injury ended his season and his tenure as the Squirrels' first choice keeper. He didn't complain when Koji Ezumi took his spot and remained professional in a tough situation.
Takuro Nishimura came to Ardija from the hated Urawa Reds and always approached the game with a big toothy grin and a ton of energy. A string of five games getting booked with red cards essentially relegated him to reserve team status. Nishimura wasn't the most skillful of players but on occasion he could take an opponent off a dribble and contribute a dangerous shot or pass.
Hiroshi Morita came to the team in 2004 and will go down in Squirrels lore as the man who scored THE GOAL. Morita could play 85 minutes of the most shockingly inept soccer ever seen to man and then score in the 86th when you least expected it. One of his most memorable goals was a tap-in against the run of play against the soon-to-be Asian champs and crosstown rivals Urawa, which helped the team survive relegation in 2007.
All three seemed to really enjoy being members of the Ardija squad, and off the field all three are really nice guys who wouldn't hesitate to talk to a fan or take a picture, even with one who muttered obscenities about them under his breath. So now we will see them possibly suit up for different squads next season. Morita is already rumored to be heading to Yamanashi to rejoin the dark prince of the front office, Satoru Sakuma, at Ventforet Kofu. Now I don't have the fear of them making a crucial mistake that costs us a game or puts us on the edge of relegation.