Yoshida wants Asian Cup switched to European off-season

SETTLING IN:  Japan  train in the rain at Hunter Stadium on Sunday night.  Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
SETTLING IN: Japan train in the rain at Hunter Stadium on Sunday night. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

JAPAN’S English Premier League star Maya Yoshida has called for the Asian Cup to be scheduled during the northern summer to prevent the tournament hurting players’ careers.

Southampton announced last week that the 26-year-old central defender had signed a three-year contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2018.

Since joining the Saints in August 2012, Yoshida has played 60 games  in the EPL.

He will be one of the Samurai Blue’s star attractions for Novocastrian football fans on Monday night when Japan open their Asian Cup title defence against Palestine at Hunter Stadium.

But Yoshida admitted he held some reservations about playing in the biggest football tournament to hit Australian shores.

The Asian Cup has forced him to spend more than a month away from the Saints, who were fourth on the EPL ladder before Monday morning’s match against Manchester United. ‘‘It’s a huge problem for Asian football because for Asian football’s improvement we shouldn’t play the tournament at this moment,’’ Yoshida said after Japan’s training session on Hunter Stadium.

‘‘In Europe every country has a competition going on and we have to leave our club in the winter.

‘‘I had just a half a year more on my contract and fortunately I renewed the contract. It’s too much of a risk for some of the players.

‘‘If  Asian football really wants to improve and catch up to European or South American football, they have to think about the frustration of players, but also the fans.’’

Asked when was the ideal time for the tournament to be held, Yoshida said: ‘‘I know it’s very difficult with TV rights and broadcasts, but I think the best time is the same time as the Euro.’’

Rain fell heavily on Hunter Stadium all day on Sunday before Japan and Palestine trained during the evening.

The NSW government spent $1.3million returfing the ground in preparation for the Asian Cup.

Two weeks ago Melbourne City coach John van ’t Schip criticised the pitch, which was top-dressed with sand in the lead-up to his club’s game against the Jets, and he rated it  ‘‘four out of 10’’. 

But Yoshida was much more positive after  training on the ground.

‘‘The pitch is not too bad, I think. I saw some games on the TV and there looked like no problem also,’’ he said

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