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Friday, May 30, 2003

Kawaguchi absent from Japan squad


Staff writer

Masafumi Kawaguchi, one of the nation's top football players, was missing when the American Football Association of Japan announced the 45-man national squad for the second World Cup of American football on Thursday at a Tokyo hotel.

The World Cup is scheduled to take place from July 10-12 in Frankfurt. Besides Japan, the 1999 World Cup champion, France (European champion), Mexico (representative of North and South America) and host Germany are taking part. The United States has never participated in the International Federation of American Football event.

According to national team head coach Toshiaki Abe, Kawaguchi, currently playing for the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe League, sent an e-mail to the AFAJ explaining his intention not to play in the World Cup this year.

Many expect that Kawaguchi will make another attempt to be picked up by an NFL team at the NFL camps in late July. The 30-year-old linebacker joined the San Francisco 49ers camp last summer but was cut two weeks before the season started.

Of the three other Japanese playing in the NFLEL, only former XFL player Shinzo Yamada (linebacker) made the team. Fellow linebacker Rikiya Ishida also withdrew from the team while receiver Yoshinobu Imoto was not selected. Quarterback Kentaro Namiki, who led Waseda University to the Kanto championship last year, was the only student player selected. Meanwhile, Shunsaku Kimura, younger brother of pop star Takuya Kimura also made the roster.

Japan plays France while Germany takes on Mexico on July 10 in the first round. The winners of the opening round will play for the championship two days later.



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