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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2004

F. Marinos defender Nakazawa caps big year with J. League MVP award

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuji Nakazawa was named J. League Player of the Year on Monday, two days after helping his side become league champions for the second consecutive season.

The fuzzy-haired 26-year-old has enjoyed an outstanding year both at club and international level and played a major role in helping Japan retain the Asian Cup in China in the summer.

"I'm absolutely delighted to receive this award and I think all of the Marinos players deserve it. Still, I don't mind accepting it on their behalf," a grinning Nakazawa said.

Yokohama manager Takeshi Okada won the Manager of the Year award for the second year running after guiding the first-stage winners to victory in the two-leg J. League Championship final against Urawa Reds.

"Sometimes luck goes your way. I'm sure if (Urawa defender) Marcus Tulio Tanaka had scored that header in the last minute on Saturday then (Urawa manager) Guido Buchwald would be standing here instead of me," joked Okada. "But everyone at the club has worked hard and I'm delighted to win this award again."

Yokohama, winners of both stages last season, were reduced to 10 men but won a penalty shootout at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Saturday to claim victory in the last ever final under the two-stage system.

Urawa Reds striker and 2003 Player of the Year Emerson won the Golden Boot award after finishing on top of the J. League first-division scoring charts with 27 goals.

"This reward comes from a lot of effort but I wouldn't have been able to get it without support from the staff at the club, both on and off the pitch," Emerson said. "We lost in the Nabisco Cup final and the Championship final, that has just made us want to succeed all the more next year."

Meanwhile, promising teenager Takayuki Morimoto, who in May became the youngest ever professional player in the J. League when he signed for Tokyo Verdy on his 16th birthday, won the Young Player of the Year award.

Nakazawa was among three Yokohama players named to the J. League XI for the 2004 season while Brazilian Emerson, Tulio Tanaka and Makoto Hasebe were also picked for second-stage winners Urawa.

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