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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

J. WALKING

Marques aims high for Omiya Ardija while emulating Vieira


When asked to name his sporting idols, Omiya Ardija midfielder Jun Marques Davidson picks two.

Jeremy Walker

The first is Patrick Vieira, midfield general for Arsenal and France, whose playing style Davidson greatly admires.

The second is quarterback Kurt Warner, a two-time NFL MVP who recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals.

Quite an unusual combination, to have heroes on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the plot thickens when the 21-year-old J. Leaguer reveals that his father gave him the name Marques as a tribute to his favorite basketball player: Marques Johnson, a star at UCLA before moving into the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.

This colorful cocktail of sporting excellence goes a long way to explaining Davidson's own personal background, and his ambition.

He was born in Tokyo to an American father and Japanese mother, who met when his mother went to the States to study to be a beautician.

Davidson lived in Tokyo through to junior high school, after which he spent a year in England at TASIS: The American School in Surrey.

From there he moved to Pasadena, Calif., for three years, playing for the American Global Soccer School, and then returned to Japan, making his debut for Omiya in 2003.

All the coaching and experience abroad certainly looks to have paid dividends, if his performance in a 2-0 Nabisco Cup victory over Albirex Niigata on Saturday was anything to go by.

Tall and sturdy, at 186 cm and 75 kg, Davidson controlled the midfield. . .

Showing great anticipation and instinct, he broke up attack after attack before striding forward into enemy territory. He was strong in the air and composed on the ball, and his 90-minute engine almost brought him a solo goal near the end.

All in all it was a performance which would have impressed Vieira himself . . . and that's just what Davidson is trying to do.

"To me, Patrick Vieira is the complete player," said Davidson.

"He can do anything. He can go forward and score. He defends well and is good on the ball. For a midfielder he is the perfect player.

"I watch the English Premier League on SkyPerfect TV back in my dormitory and try to learn from him and copy his style. He is a good kind of role model for me as a midfield player."

Davidson, called Marques by teammates and staff, holds a Japanese and American passport, so is eligible to play for both countries.

Although defensive midfield is not an area where Japan is short of candidates, it might be a good idea for the JFA to check out Omiya's Vieira wannabe . . . before the Americans get there first.

The latest chapter in "The Takayuki Morimoto Story" was played out Saturday, when the Tokyo Verdy youngster scored twice in a remarkable 4-4 draw at home to Kawasaki Frontale.

Trailing 4-0 at the break, Verdy manager Ossie Ardiles needed to do something drastic. So he sent on the 16-year-old boy wonder and Morimoto changed the game.

Ardiles cannot speak highly enough of his hungry young forward.

"He has great potential," says the Argentine coach.

"He is big, strong and skillful. He's good in the air and on the floor. He has everything.

"He has to improve his positioning and his finishing, and he wants to do it. He wants to score more goals."

Ardiles insists that some of the world's biggest clubs, particularly Manchester United, are monitoring Morimoto's progress, after the teen was named MVP of the Nike Premier Cup Under-15 tournament at Portland, Ore., in the summer of 2003.

Verdy's opponents were Manchester United, Boca Juniors, Corinthians, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid, and the award was presented by none other than United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I know that Manchester United likes him," says Ardiles.

"All the big clubs know him and at the moment are watching to see what happens. I am sure they (Manchester United) are keeping tabs on him . . . and not only them."

Verdy's general manager, Tadashi Karai, says what makes Morimoto stand out is his personality.

"His attitude is fantastic," says Karai. "He wants to be one of the best goalscorers in the world and he tells people this. His aim is much higher.

"No Japanese boy speaks like that. Usually they are very shy."

The 1998 World Cup in France may be ancient history for Shoji Jo, but Japan's former national team center forward is still in the news . . . and in the wars.

Jo, whose two front teeth are still embedded in Yoo Sang Chul's elbow following a typically robust Japan-South Korea international several years ago, was knocked out cold in a recent match for Yokohama FC in J2.

After three minutes unconscious, and two more coming round, Jo returned to the pitch to help his team gain a 1-1 draw.

All of which brings to mind an amusing story from the lower reaches of the Scottish League.

A burly center forward was having a particularly bad game when he cracked heads with the rival center half.

The doctor ran over to treat him, followed by a concerned manager.

"How's he doing?" asked the manager.

"He's in a bad way, boss," replied the doctor. "He doesn't know who he is."

"Good," said the manager. "Tell him he's Pele and get him back out there."

Player of the Week: Omiya Ardija's Brazilian forward Christian. The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has been struggling with a knee injury, but scored a fine goal Saturday with a soaring header against Albirex Niigata. What you might call "airborne-again Christian."

Quote of the Week: "It was all a long time ago. It's never something you forget, but I would say everyone will be more focused on the football now."

-- Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry, after his club was drawn to play Juventus in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

It will be their first meeting since the European Cup final in 1985, when 39 fans died following a riot by Liverpool supporters at Heysel Stadium in Brussels.



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