Long journey

Cologne - After becoming the Bundesliga’s most prolific Japanese goalscorer of all time on Matchday 3, 1. FSV Mainz 05 forward has secured his place in the German top-flight’s history books.

The 28-year-old struck twice to help the 05ers to a 3-1 victory away to Hertha Berlin, lifting his overall tally to 28 to overtake former record holder Yasuhiko Okudera, the first Japanese player to have plied his trade in German professional football.
“It’s a record I’m really proud of,” Okazaki told bundesliga.com after the encounter at the Olympiastadion. “It isn’t easy getting a foothold in Europe, and it wasn’t always easy for me either.”

Having netted ten goals in 63 matches during a topsy-turvy two-and-a-half-year spell with VfB Stuttgart, the Takarazuka native finally found his sporting home in 2013 at the Coface Arena, where the former VfB winger has been deployed as a centre-forward by both Thomas Tuchel and the 41-year-old’s successor Kasper Hjulmand, bagging an impressive 18 goals in 36 matches to date.

‘Keen to better my record’

“I’m very keen to build on that record, and the Japanese goalscoring record in the Bundesliga,” insisted Okazaki, who hopes his match-winning displays will inspire fans back home. “I believe that when I do well, players watching in Japan might get the feeling they can also make the grade, which makes me very happy.”

Okudera, who played for 1. FC Köln, Hertha Berlin and SV Werder Bremen between 1977 and 1986, left a lasting impression both in Japan and during his time in the Bundesliga, although Okazaki admitted he “only got to know him personally after I came to Germany. I’m amazed by his achievements.” It's safe to assume that today’s generation of football fans are just as impressed by Okazaki’s exploits so far this season.