Home » People » Hiroshi Nanami: A Former Japanese Icon
Hiroshi Nanami playing for Japan

Hiroshi Nanami: A Former Japanese Icon

Hiroshi Nanami’s silky skills and lethal left foot were vital to Japan’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup and Jubilo Iwata’s dominance of the J.League in the late 1990s. The History Of Soccer team explores the career of the former playmaker, who shares his thoughts on his time playing alongside Hidetoshi Nakata, adapting to the Italian Serie A, and his country’s hopes for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Hiroshi Nanami Memorable Moments

In 1995, Hiroshi Nanami made his professional debut with club team Jubilo Iwata. Hiroshi Nanami said of his club career, “I had the privilege of playing with some wonderful players. However, having players like Salvatore Schillaci, Masashi Nakayama, and Naohiro Takahara defined my role more efficiently.”

At first, Hiroshi Nanami was unsure whether he had the strength and speed to succeed professionally. However, in the Shizuoka derby against Shimizu S-Pulse in 1995, he set up Schillaci’s winner with a deft touch. Besides Gerald Vanenburg and Dunga of Brazil, Jubilo Iwata also boasted several other big-name internationals. Hiroshi Nanami would be changed forever by the experience of playing with such a talented line-up.

“I learned so much from Vanenburg, and Dunga always gave precisely the correct instructions for the situation. So as my career wound down, I tried to pass on what I learned to younger players,” said Hiroshi Nanami.

Although he scored in his first two games for Japan, the attacking midfielder struggled to win over many fans, who felt he was unworthy of the coveted No.10 jersey. During the 1998 qualification for France, Hiroshi Nanami was used more defensively as Hidetoshi Nakata gained influence. His slick passing became an integral part of Japan’s new 3-5-2 formation, and together with Nakata and Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Nanami helped guide Japan into their first World Cup.

Most Valuable Player

The presence of Nakata on the national team allowed Nanami to play his own game behind him. As soon as I realized my pairing with Yamaguchi was the group’s fulcrum, I was able to help Nakata play to his strengths.

Like Yasuhiko Okudera, Nanami explored playing overseas and spent the 1999/2000 season on loan with Venezia in Italy before returning home to continue his soccer career with Jubilo. At the end of his career, the Shizuoka native spent time on loan with Cerezo Osaka and Tokyo Verdy. Even so, despite persistent injury problems there, he was forced to return to Jubilo in 2008, where he would retire.

My 14-year career was very satisfying. I had no regrets,” said Hiroshi Nanami, who was named in the J.League’s Best XI four times and AFC Asian Cup’s Most Valuable Player in 2000. He represented his country 67 times and scored nine times.

“The best soccer memory I have contributes to Jubilo’s golden era [the club won the J. League three times and Asian Club Championships from 1997 to 2002]. I spoke about how I wanted people to see what my left foot was capable of when I first started. In the 14 years I played the game, I enjoyed hearing people or the media refer to me as ‘Lefty Nanami.’ Having my opponents be cautious of my left foot also shows that I lived up to my reputation.”

Becoming A Manager

Despite his age, Hiroshi Nanami’s passion for soccer endures. After being an adviser for Jubilo and a television analyst, he moved into coaching. With his extensive experience, he is sure to have plenty to impart.

“I was full of confidence when I went to Italy, but I had a difficult time adjusting to the different style of play, overcoming the language barrier, and other things,” he said. “However, that season helped me mature as a player and a person, and I felt I was a better pro when I returned to Japan. I told the younger guys that when I was playing, and I will say the same thing if I take on a coaching role.”

Hiroshi Nanami joined Jubilo Iwata as their soccer manager in September 2014. After playing in the J2 League in 2014, Jubilo Iwata aimed to return to the J1 League. After finishing 2nd in 2015, Jubilo was promoted to J1 League. However, when Jubilo Iwata was at its lowest point in June 2019, he resigned. Hiroshi Nanami has stepped back into management in 2021 with Matsumoto Yamaga FC in the J2 league.

Hiroshi Nanami hopes that Japanese national players will take advantage of the opportunity to express themselves on soccer’s biggest stage in pursuit of the World Cup trophy in Qatar 2022 . “I look forward to seeing how well the players can execute the Japanese style of soccer and, as individuals, function at a level that makes the world sit up and take notice,” he said. They need to work hard and focus on improving their skills. I hope they can grow as a team and as individuals by remembering that their collective goal is to make the team better.”

Hiroshi Nanami Individual Honors

  • Asia Cup Most Valuable Player: 2000
  • Asia Cup Best Eleven: 1996, 2000
  • The J. League Best Eleven: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002
  • Team for the 20th Anniversary of the J. League
  • Award for the New Hero of J.League: 1996
  • Selected to the AFC All-Star Team: 1998, 2000

Main Image: Twitter