Despite doing the same to Germany in their opening match, I think the world truly woke up to Japanese football last night. Beating Spain and Germany to top your group is an incredible achievement for a country that Celtic have been able to sign footballers from for a fraction of the budget we spend locally.
We have a first movers advantage, but Japanese agents are not doing their jobs right if they fail to exploit the higher profile attached to Japanese players as a result of this World Cup. Celtic’s information advantage has shortened.
Other things have gone in our favour. By 1 January we will have five Japanese players on our books, with the profile of the game in that nation at its highest in 20 years. Ange Postecoglou also ‘enjoys’ celebrity status. Celtic must surely tour there next summer.
We have work to do to ensure we do not have to face Uefa qualifiers, but the preparatory work can get underway now, hopefully ahead of confirmed dates by April. Go large. Bring trophies, including the European Cup, involve Shunsuke Nakamura, run summer coaching sessions for kids. Build partnerships with Japanese clubs, leverage Adidas’ formidable market knowledge to build a merchandise channel.
Celtic did great work to recruit from Japan. The national team’s World Cup success in putting thousands at fan zones at 2.30 in the morning, though, has been a stroke of good fortune. We will hopefully have a few weeks and some discretionary budget to take a gamble on building a sustainable relationship with the Japanese market. Do it, Celtic, before the sun sets on a great opportunity.