Hisato Sato is a name worth remembering
Shinji Ono might just be starting to impress in the Hyundai A-League but a compatriot of his could be a perfect fit for the Australian football scene.
There are many similarities between Parramatta Stadium and Nihondaira Stadium on the east coast of Japan.
Both grounds house 20,000 fans and some of the most passionate supporters in Asian football.
And both have been home to a certain Shinji Ono - Western Sydney Wanderers- fleet-footed Japanese midfielder.
It-s safe to say the A-League is yet to see the best of Ono.
That-s no surprise given that he spent his final months at Shimizu S-Pulse admiring the view of Mount Fuji from the bench at Nihondaira Stadium.
It didn-t start out that way for Ono, whose exit from the Bundesliga to sign for his hometown team Shimizu was greeted as the return of a prodigal son.
Despite spending his formative years at football powerhouse Shimizu Commercial High School, Ono joined Urawa Reds as a teenager before embarking on a storied career in Europe.
Needless to say, his first competitive game for Shimizu in 2010 attracted plenty of fanfare.
Unfortunately for Ono one man almost single-handedly destroyed the party - and his name was Hisato Sato.
In the third minute of Shimizu-s opening-day clash against Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Big Arch Stadium, Hiroshima defender Tomoaki Makino stepped up to face S-Pulse goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe from the penalty spot.
Makino turned his back, took a deep breath and then stood motionless as Sato burst out of a line of players before stroking the ball past a startled Nishibe.
It was a penalty that will long stand in J. League infamy and one that earned referee Takuto Okabe a two-match ban for allowing the goal to stand.
Yet Hiroshima-s breathtaking invention was begrudgingly admired by many fans, particularly those who have long regarded Sato as one of the best strikers the J. League has ever produced.
Last weekend Sato finally did something he-s never done before. He lifted the J. League trophy.
The diminutive striker once again played a key role, converting a 42nd minute penalty just before half-time in Hiroshima-s 4-1 rout of Cerezo Osaka.
Off a Beppe Signori-style one-step run up, Sato drilled a thunderous shot home, which threatened to rip the netting from its stanchions.
At the end of the game, when it became apparent Hiroshima had won the J. League after 20 years of trying, Sato collapsed on the ground and sobbed tears of joy.
Just like Ono, who suffered relegation with Urawa Reds in 1999, Sato went down with his beloved Hiroshima at the end of 2007.
Five years later Sanfrecce were crowned champions of Japan.
"We have endured some hard seasons and haven't always played the type of soccer that people can enjoy watching," Sato said in a pitch-side interview after the match.
"This has happened because of all the fans that came to the stadium and watched us on television."
What makes Sato-s career all the more interesting is that he-s not from Hiroshima.
He was born in Saitama, just outside Tokyo, and started his career at JEF United in nearby Chiba alongside twin brother Yuto.
And while Sato has been capped more than 30 times by Japan, he-s struggled to find favour with a succession of coaches who have proved dismissive of his 170-centimetre stature.
Yet after a mind-boggling 167 J. League goals and counting, the left-footed front man is clearly one of the best finishers the competition has ever produced.
And at just 30, Sato still has plenty of football left in him.
Now that he-s won the J. League, is it not the ideal time for an A-League club to pick up the telephone and politely enquire about his services?
It-s not as far-fetched as it seems now that his former sparring partner Ono is gracing our shores.
Hisato Sato is a name worthy of recognition outside Japan. With a little bit of ambition, there-s no reason he couldn-t achieve that recognition in the A-League.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author, and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.