KYOGO FURUHASHI thought he would be a splash-hit as he chose swimming as his main sport as a kid growing up in Ikoma in Japan.
Now, of course, the 28-year-old hitman is a smash-hit at Celtic as he demonstrated yet again with a double in the 5-0 romp over Aberdeen on Flag Day at Parkhead yesterday.
Kyogo’s first-half strikes took his tally to the season to 33 to add to the 20 he claimed during his debut crusade last time out following his £4.6million arrival from Vissel Kobe.
BIG NOISE…Kyogo Furuhashi, holding a loudhailer, leads the Celtic celebrations with Joe Hart after the 5-0 landslide against Aberdeen to bring down the curtain on the league campaign.
The Japanese international, who has been brought into his country’s squad along with Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda for the forthcoming Kirin Cup matches against El Salvador and Peru, missed four months of his first campaign at Parkhead through injury which severly curtailed his striking rate.
Kyogo limped off early in the second-half of the win over Dons, but is hoping to be fit to lead the line against Inverness Caley Thistle in Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final at Hampden where he hopes to get the opportunity to add to his total.
He will be honoured in Glasgow this evening by his fellow-professionals when he picks up their Player of the Year award after his fabulous efforts in helping guide the Hoops towards a glorious treble.
It’s all a far cry from his days at university in in his homeland when he weighed up alternative careers.
If it hadn’t been for an individual by the name of Takeshi Oki, the coach at J2-League club FC Gifu, giving him an opportunity in 2017, Ange Postecoglou would have had to look elsewhere for someone to score the crucial goals in his revamp of the fallen champions.
AT THE DOUBLE…the trackside hoardings say it all as Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his second goal against the Dons – and his 33rd strike of the season.
Kyogo said: “I was actually a swimmer from three years old. But all the kids in the neighbourhood were playing football. I thought: ‘That’s cool’, so I started playing.
“Even at that age, I was in front of the goal all the time. Every time I received the ball I’d just shoot and score. That was fun for me and it’s how I started playing football. I tried hard at swimming and to compete in national competitions.
“At such a young age, I just played football for my love of it. I enjoyed it. Most of the time I played as a striker and before I came here I was playing winger.
“But at High School, I actually used to play full-back, which was a bit different. Between the age of 16 and 18, there was a professional footballer in my year. Two players came out of my school to be footballers.
“That’s when I thought: ‘Okay, maybe there’s a chance for me’. But I was struggling at one point. No-one was really calling me to play for their club. When nobody called I thought about giving it up.
“But luckily FC Gifu called me with a place on their team and that’s how I started. I’ll always appreciate that. Maybe I’d have had to work like anyone else and just play football as a hobby.
“My family have supported me all the way through until here. They would say: ‘Nothing is finished so why give up?’ These kinds of words triggered me and switched me on.
“So ,then I thought: ‘Why not keep trying until the end and see how it goes?’”
HEARTFELT THANKS…Kyogo Furuhashi displays his emotion to the Celtic fans.
Kyogo, speaking to the Sunday Mail, continued: “I’m just grateful to be able to play here. When you’re younger and you play football, everyone is trying to make it as a professional.
“I still talk to some friends now and they say it’s amazing what I’ve done. Even though they work at a company or somewhere, they use what they learned through football when we played together.
“They still use those experiences. But I know it’s rare to make it to professional level. You can play and do whatever you can, then you get a job. So, I feel grateful for what I’ve got.
“I feel like I’m carrying all those hopes of my friends who didn’t make it.”
Reflecting on the start of his career, Kyogo added: “I was so glad to meet the coach at Gifu. When I look back, I was in my first year and a new guy. But he made sure I worked hard on what I had.
“On good days and bad days, everyone has supported me. After I showed what I had, the coach used me and, in time, had confidence in me. That kept me motivated.
“I’m happy to be selected for this award from a lot of great players in Scotland. I’m pleased about this. I’ll make sure there’s space for it. I’ll put it in a nice place in my house.”