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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Magan

"Like a genius" - Ross Aloisi on Kevin Muscat, Yokohama F. Marinos, and the J-League

It has already been three months since Ross Aloisi was appointed as a Yokohama F. Marinos assistant coach under Kevin Muscat. Front Page Football sat with Socceroo #404 to discuss his new life in Japan. Ross spoke about his adaptation, the J-League, its Brazilians, the main differences with Australian football, Kevin Muscat, and more!

Click here for the full interview on the latest episode of the FPF podcast.

At the time of this piece, Ross Aloisi and his Marinos side have just had a six-game winning run end in the J-League. The Adelaide-born coach is happy in Japan, and it shows.

“I have been here almost three months now. I am enjoying the culture; the food is incredible. We are always looking forward to lunch at the stadium; we are treated very well,” Aloisi starts on a light note in an exclusive interview with Front Page Football.

Yokohama manager Kevin Muscat addresses the first-team squad at training. (Yokohama F. Marinos)

How about the football? A different culture is a long story short.

“The players are capable of doing a lot more here in Japan, and that is due to junior football training. Technically and physically, the players here are up there,” Aloisi continues.

“The training sessions are conducted at high intensity all the time.

“The players’ tactical awareness is better than most Australian players because of their upbringing. They train very hard as juniors. [It] gives them the ability to go for a longer period at a higher intensity.

“The players’ professionalism, in the amount of injury prevention work they do before and after training, is incredible.

“The amount of passing the players do before and after training, simple passing, is phenomenal.”

J-League fans could put down the players’ hard work and discipline to the Japanese culture, but in football, it still takes a strong leader to ensure the same effort is put in, week in, week out.

At the Nissan-owned club, his name is familiar: Kevin Muscat. The new Marinos assistant coach only has good things to say about the former Melbourne Victory manager.

Aloisi (far left) says intense junior training is key to player development in Japan. (Yokohama F. Marinos)

“He (Muscat) is very charismatic," Aloisi said.

“He has got a way of getting people to follow what he wants, and it is 100% all the time; there is no compromise. This (mentality) is true for the coaching staff as well.

“I am not sure if people appreciate Kevin Muscat, the football coach, the person he is.

“I have known him for a long time; we have played in the Olympics together. People don’t judge him here in Japan like in Australia.”

Down under, Muscat’s legacy is linked with the infamous John Kosmina shove, the tunnel incident in Millwall, and the tackles, most notably on Adrian Zahra in a 2011 Melbourne Derby.

But in Japan, they only see the results he brings to the club.

“They don’t remember him as a football player here, they see him as a football coach, and he is a very calm football coach who knows what he wants,” Aloisi added.

“I can understand why the club appointed him. He has worked with Ange (Postecoglou), which was a bonus.

The Yokohama F. Marinos squad pose for a team photo. (Yokohama F. Marinos)

”He is the type of person that thinks constantly about ways to improve his team and his coaches. He is constantly thinking about things others would not think about.

“He is forever implementing new things. He is the type of person that pushes you every single day, every minute of the training session, and makes sure that the players are upbeat.

“Positive reinforcement is something that I believe in, and surprisingly enough, Kevin does as well.

“I don’t know if it's the right word to use, but he is like a genius.

“I hope to stay with Kevin as long as I can. I love working under him.”

Going from assistant coach under Carl Veart at Adelaide United to the same role, on paper, with the J-League leaders was also quite the change for Aloisi. From the language barrier, the club’s structure, and the directors' involvement, everything is new, and his role is more focused.

“My role is completely different from what I did in Adelaide. There, it was Carl, myself, and Airton Andrioli,” Aloisi said.

“Here, for 30+ players, we have 30+ staff.

Aloisi says that his current role is very different to the one he undertook in Adelaide. (Yokohama F. Marinos)

“I am in charge of the non-playing group with three other assistants. Players who don't play on matchday they're training that morning, so there [are] no days off.

“Shaun Ontong is the main assistant. He organizes training sessions and delegates.

“I am also in charge of the attacking set pieces or set plays, [and] the individual development programs for the players, with two other Japanese coaches.

“This could be on [the] field or video review depending on the week. So yeah, quite a bit has changed for me.

“During the week, I may take charge of possession or passing. Whatever it is, the main tactical part is always done by Kevin.

“Going back to the defensive structures, especially in the back third, I do quite a bit of work with the players, especially with the individual development program, always trying to improve.

“We give them the best opportunities to progress and to be the best they can be. One-on-one crosses, for example, are difficult to work on, but players enjoy it because it's something different. It’s individualized as well, not just a tactical session with the team structure.”

The J-League is ahead of the A-League Men in terms of professionalism, structure, and investment. It is fascinating to hear how it stays performant from someone in the middle of it.

But also undoubtedly frustrating. Australian-born players and managers would love to bring what they have learned overseas back to their mother country.

“To be able to individually work with players is very difficult when there is only three staff,” Aloisi said when discussing his time in Adelaide.

“For example, Kane Vidmar, Tony Vidmar's young son, is probably one of the best 1v1 defenders that I've seen in a long time in Australia.

“But he needs to improve in other areas. But we don't have the resources to work with these players. You see the talent, and you're thinking, if you had the same resources and time, it would make a big difference.”

If you liked this teaser article of writer Jeremy Magan's interview with Ross Aloisi, then click here to listen to the full interview on the FPF Podcast.


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