Yamamoto The Dreamcatcher: From teacher to footballer

It’s never too late chase after your dreams, as 45-year-old Shinya Yamamoto will tell you… 

It’s never too late to start.

That is perhaps the phrase most suitable for Shinya Yamamoto, a former teacher at a school for the hearing-impaired in Hokkaido.

In order to follow his heart and desire, he quit teaching in 2014, the profession he had been in for the past 20 years, giving up approximately $8,000 in salary per month.

All in order to go for trials, hoping to get signed as a professional football player. Eventually he did so with a Mongolian club in 2016, and now he is on the lookout for his second-ever club.

Yamamoto the 45-year-old footballer

What did he find so fascinating about football? What happened to him? Why did he want to teach? Why did he give it up to follow his football dreams? Follow the story of Shinya-san here.

FourFourTwo: Hello, Shinya-san!

Hello.

FourFourTwo: First of all, can you please tell us about your childhood?

I was the only child. My parents were office workers. I spent most my time alone. I stayed home alone. I ate alone. I started playing football when I was seven but I also skied then.

My hometown is famous for winter sports and Winter Olympics. The year Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics was the year I was born (1972). My father was Japan’s third-seeded skier back then. But why did I play football more? Because it’s more fun.

Yamamoto is trialling with various clubs now

FourFourTwo: How did you start playing football?

I started playing football because each year we could only ski in winter. So, in summer I played football and as it turned out, I really enjoyed it. After that I started to follow football and my idol as a kid was Michel Platini.

They did not broadcast Serie A on TV back then, but in the Toyota Cup, Japanese teams would invite big names from Europe to play.

The first year I started watching football, they invited Juventus. I was about 10 years old and I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  

Yamamoto only ever wanted to play football since he was a kid

FourFourTwo: How crazy were you about football?

When I was 12 years old in junior high school, I became more serious about football. I played for my school team, while I also started to follow football news in magazines and such, reading monthly magazines like Soccer Digest and Soccer Magazine.

You couldn’t read news on the internet like you can these days. I had to save my lunch money to buy a magazine every month. The more I read, the more I was inspired to play professional football.  

There was this one column reporting about students who learnt football in Brazil as a part of an exchange student program, and of course, I wanted to be one of them.

Brazil was like a dreamland for football fans in Japan, but the program cost a lot and my parents wouldn’t allow it.

There was another way to go to Brazil without having to pay. You had to be signed as a player of a football club and they would send you to train in Brazil for free (one of the successful footballers from this program was Kazuyoshi Miura).

FourFourTwo: How well did you do in the school team?

I went to Sapporo Hassamu Junior High School. Our school team was not a famous one in Hokkaido. The best we could do was to reach the semi-finals.

But I was quite famous amongst the student players, playing as a striker. One time we won 21-0 and I scored 20 of them.

But I was quite famous amongst the student players, playing as a striker. One time we won 21-0 and I scored 20 of them

Then I moved to Sapporo Kosei High School. I still dreamt of becoming a professional football player as I heard that Japan Football Association would establish the J-League, a professional football league (Japanese professional football league was established in 1993). I told myself I would play professionally once the league was set up.  

I got into Sendai University and played for the university team. In the first year, I did not get to play much. But in my second year they let me play more — I even got to play against the Japan national team in a friendly game!

FourFourTwo: You scored in that game?

Ah, unfortunately Sendai were beaten 6-0. It was the Japan team that was preparing for the Kirin Cup in 1991.

There were players like Kazuyoshi Miura, Nabuhiro Takeda, Masami Ihara and Ruy Ramos (Brazil-born, Japanese naturalised player). All I did was marked Ramos and not much else.