Humble Hiro, the family man

Hiroshi Ibusuki lives and plays by the same philosophy, with family at the centre.

Hiroshi Ibusuki lives and plays by the same philosophy, with family at the centre.

The gentle giant – off the field – was multi-talented as a young boy growing up in Chiba, Japan next to Tokyo, with swimming and basketball also on his radar as is common for many youths in all parts of the world.

But he settled into football alongside the kids in neighbouring apartments near where he lived.

“I always played football since I was five years old, and I went to swimming school also,” Ibusuki said. “Nobody in the family really played football at a high level so I found my own way into the game through my friends in those apartments.

“I did play a bit of basketball with my sister, but I quickly found that football was the sport for me.’

When he was growing up in Japan half of the kids played football and the other half played baseball, but nowadays football has well and truly taken over, with the national team, Samurai Blue, a rising threat and constant rival to the Socceroos.

Ibusuki has represented his country at Under 19 and Under 22 level, and he first travelled to Spain with a Chiba State team at the age of 12.

It’s where he spent a large chunk of his career from 2008-2014 before returning home to play in J2 and J1 in Japan, with the one La Liga appearance for Sevilla at the top of the pile.

While he didn’t share the field with Adelaide’s Spanish contingent in Isaías, Javi López, and Juande in this time, his proficiency in the language after seven years in south-west Europe, ensures their young families spend frequent time away from the game together in the many cafès and local attractions across SA.

It’s these moments and everyone at the Club who have already made Ibusuki’s stay in Adelaide with his wife and two children a special one.

“The people at Adelaide United are the best for me and my family and we are really enjoying our time here so far,” he said.

“When I arrived here a lot of people helped me a lot, of course Isa, Javi, and Juande for the language, but also (Ryan) Kitto was so good for us, and I am forever in debt.

“It’s very difficult to play overseas so it would have been a lot different if my family weren’t happy to be here with me also.”

While Hiroshi’s height and aerial threat are no doubt commanding, he was always determined to play with the ball at his feet growing up in the game, as witnessed weekly with his mesmerising touch and control.

The way he can bring the ball down from any height or velocity seems rather unnatural for such a tall frame, which is always giving opposition defenders even more to think about.

It combines to make Ibusuki a damaging player and keen to add to his 11 goals in all competitions since joining United this time last year.

“It’s true that with my height I like to receive crosses from Goody (Craig Goodwin) for just one example, a lot of my team-mates always provide excellent service,” he said.

“But as a kid I was always sure to have the ball at my right foot as much as possible and I also need to have players around me that I can link with to make me better.

“With more guys coming back into the team regularly, we can find that momentum and intensity again.”

Ibusuki notes the A-League as certainly comparable to J1 League, the highest Club competition in Japan and where he spent time post-Spain with Albirex Niigata, Shonan Bellmare, and Shimizu S-Pulse.

The 31-year-old also admits that the Japanese culture is ‘a little bit strange’ at times and was amazed to learn that it is now being adopted more often as a second language in Australian schools and tertiary education.

“It wasn’t that normal for me when I arrived to learn that a lot of people here knew a lot of vocabulary and it is a second language for many Australians,” he admitted.

“It was very surprising because when I was in Spain, there was no Japanese at all.

“So this has made things even easier for us to settle into life here.”

It only further strengthens his newfound connection to Adelaide and United, and its humble Hiro is determined to make the best out of his tenure at the Club.

“I’m very happy now because I have my family here and I’m still here and playing the game I love,” Ibusuki expressed.

“A lot of my friends ended up retiring early because they couldn’t find a team or couldn’t continue, and even when my friend (former Brisbane Roar striker Masato Kudo) died recently it gave me a lot of perspective.

“I played with him from the age of 10 so that has given me a lot of perspective and I feel more responsibility to play and really make the most out of my career, for me and my family.”

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