Simao Mate feels energy and love of the football fans in Japan. “They are the best”

  • text by Yoichi Igawa
  • photo by Manabu Takahashi

In fact, Simao had a hard time at the start of his debut season. In March, Vegalta lost all three of the matches he started as a midfield anchor. After that, he had to bide his time until June for another start.

At that time the media and fans had doubts about his physical condition, as he seemed almost to be in slow motion compared to the best form he went on to show. Simao, however, thinks differently.

"I don't think my condition (in spring) was so bad at the time," Simao continued gently. "We lost those games because the opponents were better than us. And yes, I had to sit on the bench after that, but sometimes you have to wait for your chance. The manager decided the starting 11, and I just followed that."

During that time, Simao gradually got used to life in Japan. He and his wife had originally liked Japanese food and found new favourites such as ox tongue, the local specialty of Sendai. Based on that adjustment and with help from his teammates, Simao was then able to perform well when he returned to the starting lineup in June.

"My teammates were so nice to me from the first day," Simao said appreciatively. "Thanks to them, I was selected as the J1 league player of June. I'm very grateful to them for everything. I know some people thought I was one of the key players for our perfect results in June because they started when I came back into the starting lineup, but I think it was just chance. I rather see it as the whole team becoming hungry again at the time. It was not me that revived the team."