Albirex Niigata skipper Kazuki Hashioka wants to be king of assists
Hashioka draws inspiration from brother who plays for J1 League side Urawa
Albirex Niigata's new captain Kazuki Hashioka does not need to look far for his footballing inspiration.
The 23-year-old's younger brother Daiki, 20, made his bow for Japan two months ago, after an impressive Asian Champions League campaign for Urawa Red Diamonds, for whom he scored twice on debut and created the winner in the second leg of the semi-final.
Kazuki told The New Paper: "I'm very proud of my brother. I use him as my motivation.
"When I was back in Japan, I used to watch him play and when I hear the crowd cheer for him, I feel inspired...
"Although he is three years younger, we used to play together in Urawa's youth team, he'd play as right-back and I would move to centre-back...
"I hope to make it back to the J1 League and play on the same stage as my brother."
Apart from their shared bloodline, the similarities between the pair run deep - both came through the youth ranks at Urawa, both are right-backs and both have an attacking streak.
Despite Daiki's burgeoning profile as one of the brightest young attacking fullbacks in Japan with four goals and four assists last season, Kazuki joked that he was slightly better at going forward than his younger sibling.
But the Albirex skipper, who arrived from Japanese fifth-tier side Tokyo 23 last month, was more serious about his personal target for his debut Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, which kicks off this Saturday.
Kazuki wants to top the assist chart.
He said: "My personal target is to get as many goals and assists as possible, and contribute in terms of attacking and being a winner...
"How many did last year's best assist-maker have? I want to be top (of the assist chart) this year."
Ryutaro Megumi, Christopher van Huizen and Andrei Varankou shared the honours with 10 assists apiece in the SPL last season.
During Albirex's six pre-season matches, Kazuki chipped in with two goals and two assists.
His performances in pre-season and training have one of his new teammates purring.
Last year's The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award winner Iman Hakim Ibrahim, 17, who will be making his SPL debut for Albirex this season, told TNP: "The player who has consistently impressed me is Kazuki Hashioka.
"Every day, he gives 100 per cent. He is a really important player for the team.
"He's a complete player. He can defend well, he can attack well. He's quite versatile and also he is a leader in the team."
And it is that leadership quality that Kazuki feels sets him apart from his more illustrious sibling. He said: "Of course, as the older brother, I feel that my leadership skills are better.
"I communicate better because I like to talk to people."
Albirex Niigata factfile
Coach: Keiji Shigetomi
Homeground: Jurong East Stadium
IN - Kazuki Hashioka (DF, Tokyo 23), Tomoyuki Doi (FW, Tokoha University), Daniel Goh (MF, Balestier Khalsa), Gareth Low (MF, Young Lions)
OUT - Kyoga Nakamura (MF, to Tampines Rovers), Kaishu Yamazaki (DF, Lion City Sailors), Kengo Fukudome (GK, Gainare Tottori)
Last season: 4th
Outlook: Albirex are hoping to bounce back from their first trophyless season since 2014, but it remains to be seen how their enhanced Singaporean contingent will fit into that equation.
As always, there are some promising new Japanese prospects to look out for, this time in Kazuki Hashioka and Tomoyuki Doi.
- v Geylang International (home)
March 7 (5.30pm)
- v Balestier Khalsa (away)
March 14 (8.15pm)
- v Brunei DPMM (away)