Reason why Moroccan-born FW TARIK, who played for shonan bellmare until last year, "definitely wanted to live in hiratsuka"

  • text by Igawa Yoichi
  • photo by Kishiku Torao

Why JAPAN?-Reasons why I play in Japan-

Interview with TARIK Elyounoussi Part 1

※This interview was conducted in November 2023.

It's no wonder Tarik Elyounoussi speaks eight languages when you see his keen curiosity, friendly nature, and cleverness emerging from his gentle eyes. Born in Morocco and raised in Norway from the age of 10, the 35-year-old striker has played professionally in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Azerbaijan, Sweden, and Japan.

A sociable and respectful footballer, Tarik is "everyone's favourite", according to Shonan Bellmare's press officer. With our planned 30-minute interview almost tripling in length, I think that really must be true. He is very talkative because he wants to convey his intentions precisely to others, and is willing to exchange opinions calmly with everyone.

I somehow recognised this personality when I first spoke to him. It was February 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was just starting to hit the world. Attending the only game that took place in line with the original schedule on the opening day of the season against Urawa Reds, I approached the Shonan debutant in the mixed zone after a heartbreaking late 3-2 defeat.

Not only that, but Tarik himself had hit the bar from the penalty spot, failing to make it 3-2 to the hosts in the second half. To use a common sports media phrase, it was a "bitter-sweet debut", but he politely responded in English to his first-time interviewer, looking straight into my eyes.

Due to the pandemic and my work situation changing we lost contact after that, meaning this was the first time we had met since. Even so, Tarik remembered our first contact.

"It must have been after a home game," Tarik said. "I remember it because very few people speak to me without an interpreter here in Japan."

Without any need to break the ice, then, the long interview began in a room at Shonan Bellmare's clubhouse in Hiratsuka. We started with the usual question, which is a regular feature of this series: why did you decide to come to Japan?

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