By Andreja Kumer
Takashi Ikeda will be bringing the Japanese men’s team together yet for another World Championships in Malmö, Sweden from 3-8 June.
Being a coach for Japan for the last 30 years, he has had the honour to take them to three World Championships.
Malmö 2018 will be his fourth, building on his experiences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2002, Spartanburg, USA, in 2006 and Pajulahti, Finland in 2014.
Speaking through a translator, Ikeda is a picture of optimism and tranquillity. He says his team are training constantly every day and they have used every opportunity to compete at different tournaments to prepare for Malmö 2018. They have also been careful to observe their opponents.
The team that will travel to Sweden was selected in April. Ikeda consulted with other coaches and analysed statistics to choose the best players for the most important competition on the calendar.
One of the longest serving members is Masatoshi Ito. He has been playing for the last 16 years and Malmö 2018 will be his third World Championships. He is still excited to try to help his team get to the podium, using his years of experience.
Ikeda meanwhile gave away some of the unique tactics that Ito and the other five players will be deploying. He said that they run a lot due to their smaller frames and have one continuous circle of attack and defence that helps to keep them focused.
Their routine is also to gather before the game, discuss what tactics to use with their opponents, shout words of encouragement to get fired up and then stay calm and focused.
They use their training to get frustrations and anger out and are careful to not show it to their opponents during a clash – therefore they always appear calm and composed in tournaments.
“It is a sign of respect to the opponent and the officials, it keeps the players focused and they trust that everything is under control that way,” says Ikeda.
Japan is one of 16 men’s goalball teams that will get their Malmö 2018 campaign underway on 3 June. They will play USA, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Egypt, Iran and Czech Republic in group B. As well as the title on offer, it will be the first chance for teams to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Live coverage and results from the Malmö 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships will be available at the Championships website from 3-8 June.