Tanabe Using Mongolian Adventure as Springboard
Tanabe (#10, right) with SS Izu FC
They say everyone starts at the bottom. That's not EXACTLY true for Japanese striker Yutaro Tanabe. He has linked up with Ulaangom City FC of the Second Division, the third lowest of four divisions of Mongolian football, for the current season.
Ulaangom City FC is playing its first season in the league after clinching the national Amateur Cup earlier this summer. With many of the club's top players loaned to teams higher in the pyramid, there were plenty of roster spots available.
Tanabe brings with him a brief, yet interesting, footballing CV. The 20-year-old looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen like Tetsuaki Misawa who rose from football obscurity to MPL Golden Boot winner to playing in some of Asia's better leagues.
Born in Saitama, Tanabe began playing football in third grade. He kept playing through high school and into adulthood. His school team was one of the strongest in his area with players often going on to compete in prefecture and city selections. However, Tanabe admits he was never really able to make the breakthrough. His post-school career began in 2021 at Sports and Society Izu FC (SS Izu FC) when he decided against playing university football. SS Izu currently competes in the Tokai Soccer League Division 2, the sixth tier of football in the country. Tanabe remained with the club for two years before deciding to try his hand outside of Japan.
Tanabe (in black) training with New Road Team in 2023
He made his first leap abroad earlier this year, traveling to Nepal with one of his mentors. There he trained with New Road Team, the oldest existing sports club in the country which fields one of its most decorated football teams. The club currently competes in the A-Division, the highest league in the country. Despite the positive experience, Tanabe did not sign a contract with the club.
Following his time in the Himalayan nation, the striker joined Saturday Football International FC (SFF FC) of Taiwan's second division. However, after a month-long delay in the league, he departed in search of a new club. That is when Tanabe's journey brought him to Mongolia.
Without an agent, Tanabe relies upon direct contact with clubs. After reaching out to Ulaangom City on social media, he came to Mongolia for a trial and was eventually signed. About the differences between Mongolia and Japan, the player mostly notes Mongolia's much colder climate. "In Japan, this time of year is spent in short sleeves. It's much hotter," notes Tanabe.
When it comes to football, he has noticed some general trends among Mongolian players in the Second Division. "They tend to be quick to anger which causes needless yellow cards. There is a lot of simulation" or pretending to be injured to draw fouls, according to the player.
These traits are common in lower leagues around the world, where passion is higher than skill.
Tanabe (right) after signing for Ulaangom City FC
Tanabe is supported in his international footballing journey by a Japanese non-profit group called Reare World. The organization aims to confront the educational and social issues of our time. He is part of the organization's Hero Project which helps individuals in Japan and Nepal become role models, particularly through cultural exchange and football. The program is supported by players like Nepal international Santosh Sahukhala whose career took him to Japan and Bangladesh and Nepalese international goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong.
Like Tetsuaki Misawa, Tanabe would love the opportunity to join a club in the MPL, but is also open to other leagues including Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Of course, as for most players, his ultimate dream would be to make it to Europe. For right now, though, he is focused on the present and scoring goals and winning matches as he begins his career with his new club.
Born: 15 November 2002 in Saitama prefecture
In 2011, he started playing soccer in the third grade. Played for the local “Kawaguchi Little Soccer Club”.
In 2015, joined Kawaguchi Municipal Totsuka Nishi Junior High School soccer club in Saitama Prefecture and played for three years.
In 2018, joined Saitama Prefectural Urawa Higashi High School soccer club and played for three years.
In 2021 joined, SS Izu and left in 2023.
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Read more about Reare World and the Hero Project at: