Driving force in SHINJI KAGAWA's engine

Keep having a dream, keep asking yourself
To achieve promotion
to the first division,
La Liga in Spain.
In Real Zaragoza, Spain, Shinji Kagawa began a new challenge in his fourth club in Europe. In August 2019, he moved from Beşiktaş, Turkey to Real Zaragoza trying to make it to La Liga. Even before he became a professional football player, Kagawa always wanted to play in Spain, and playing in the first division was one of his dreams. Now, he keeps on kicking to make his dream come true.
We asked him about his driving force, the "engine". (※Interviewed on March 2020)
Q:How is your team?
Now, the team is looking capable to get promoted. We are in good shape and all the players are focusing on one direction. If we keep this up, I am confident of our promotion to La Liga.
Q:What are your thoughts on this?
On the positive side, I'm happy to be in this position. But on the other hand, I myself, haven't been able to get results yet, so that is my goal to play my part and contribute to the team in the rest of the season.
I feel responsible for the rest of the team. Other players have seen what I have built and how I have fought for it with both good and bad results. I've naturally become more conscious of how I can have a positive impact on the younger players on the team even in just one practice game.
In the recent Copa del Rey, they were able to play Real Madrid in the last 16. Even though his team lost 0 to 4, the game showed the quality. Zidane, the opposing team's coach, had said in his press conference the day before, "Kagawa is a key player and he has proven it.” He is challenging himself again in the fierce battle for position in the team as well.
What do you want to be?
"Do not deviate from that goal."
Kagawa says that he is the type of person who does not talk about his feelings, but rather deals with them in his heart. When he made the decision to move, he just believed his guts. He has moved from team to team and league to league, from Dortmund to Manchester United, Dortmund again, Beşiktaş and Zaragoza.
Q:What is your "engine"?
It's all about what you want to be, your goals, and your dreams. I think those are the things that drive me the most. Those are the things that I can work hard for even in tough time and things don't go well. I cannot forget that.
Q:What are your current goals?
I try to set short, medium, and long-term goals, and my long-term goal is to keep being competitive in a challenging environment. To grow as a football player. That’s it for me.
In European leagues, it is tough for 31 years old player to be seen as a force for the team. A lot of people say a lot of things to me, but that's why I always ask myself what I want to be.
Keep on challenging himself. That is his ability. Even though Kagawa made it to professional, the national team and a worldly known player, he still talks about his growth as a player passionately with straightforward eyes. And he seems to be enjoying the challenge more and more.
To young generations "Don't be afraid and challenge yourself".
Kagawa, who is now in his 30s and continues to aim for better, looks back on his teenage years as fearless. He chose to leave his hometown Kobe to play for FC Miyagi Barcelona, a club team in Sendai when he was 13. From that point on, he set his sights on becoming a professional player and signed with Cerezo Osaka at the age of 17. He made his first appearance in the J League at the age of 18, but at the time he was a reserve player. His talent took a turn when Levir Culpi the coach assigned him as aggressive midfielder instead of central midfielder. At the age of 19, he made his debut for the Japanese national team and took over the uniform number 8 for Cerezo Osaka. He has the record of 27 goals and won the title of top scorer in J2 League.
Q:How do you look back on your time at Cerezo now?
Looking back, I was fearless then. I had just made it to pro and had no idea about the Japanese national team or the world football. I was just playing out of ambition, or I just wanted to be better than other players. I think that was the privilege of being young, and something that could only be done at that age.
Being fearless is a very strong thing, isn't it? So, I would like young people to take advantage of being fearless to take on challenges, not only in football but anything in life. I want people to not be afraid and have their values and beliefs.
A challenge for Kagawa. It has been always there ever since he was a child wanting to be better player. Children from Cemano Kobe, the club he played for when he was in elementary school, visited Kagawa in Spain. The little players were thrilled to meet the star footballer. And Kagawa still have the same feelings to football as the kids do to him. He keeps trying at Real Zaragoza. To the next stage in La Liga. We can't wait to see his team face FC Barcelona.