If you haven’t yet seen the first part of this series, in which I try to cobble together the Gatoh Move roster into a semblance of a functional football team, click here…
4. Rin Rin (Defensive Midfielder)
Midfield enforcers tend to fulfil one of three archetypes. First, you have the Vinnie Joneses of this world: double-hard geezers who wield their violence with about as much subtlety as the Met Police at a climate demo and who tend to consider the afternoon a waste if they haven’t sent at least one of the oppo to the hospital. Then there are the classier type of brutes, tall and elegant but with zero qualms about going in studs-up on the opponent’s brittle, inviting shins if necessary; think Patrick Vieira or Jill Scott.
And then there’s the kind that can only accurately be described as “little shits”. The diminutive Nobby “The Phenomenal One” Stiles spent years perfecting the dark arts for Manchester United and England, hacking and biting with such sneakiness that he was once given a retrospective yellow card after the game by a FIFA official sitting in the stands, as it was the only way anything could be pinned on him. Speaking of people who it was hard to charge with any crime, gangsters of Al Capone’s time used to say that if you knew how, a bar of soap wrapped in a sock could kill a man with a single blow without leaving a mark. Stiles was cut from similar cloth.
And so is the 14-year-old Rin Rin, who in her short career has already shown palpable goblin energy characteristic of other pocket-sized terrors like Tsukushi and Mio Momono. She might not be big, and she might not have the experience of her seniors, but she’s realised very quickly that none of that matters if you just constantly stick the needle in with all the ferocity of the bloke squaring up to the six foot six squaddie at the bar, hepped up on a combination of short man syndrome and a skinful of IPA brewed by some venture capitalist melts masquerading as salt-of-the-earth crust punks. We need have no fear of Rin Rin being overpowered by larger opponents. Not when she’s proven more than willing to snap at their ankles.
So that’s size dealt with, and forget the question of age, too. If you’re good enough to perform at the highest level, you’re old enough. Look at how different things might have been in 1958 if Brazil had left that Pele sprog on the bench. If the manager trusts Rin Rin to step up to the mark, then so should we. Alan Hansen famously said that you can’t win anything with kids, but he’d clearly never watched an AZM vs. Starlight Kid match.
7. Chie Koishikawa (Right Midfielder)
English football types tend to fetishise raw velocity in their widemen above all else. Ten years ago we were churning out an apparently endless conveyor belt of pacy right wingers like Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott, men who could leave any defender in the dust but unfortunately couldn’t cross a ball to save their lives. Not for me, Clive. Don’t misunderstand; I won’t be telling my right mid not to take players on. On the contrary, I want them to tie the opposition in knots; not through speed but through nothing more or less than the movement of the body itself.
Some footballers seem to think it easy to play tricks with bodily movement, and these people invariably fall flat on their faces; the overconfident prima donna who steps up to take the decisive kick in a shootout with a stuttering run-up only to shoot tamely at the keeper, or early Cristiano Ronaldo doing a dozen stepovers before failing to beat the first man with his cross. The true artistes take things to the next level. David Beckham successfully managed to disguise the ball’s intended direction of travel by standing over every free kick in a curious stance that made it look as though he’d broken his leg and then lavishly shat himself. The tragic Brazilian Garrincha, bow-legged from childhood polio, realised he could make this difference work for him, using his limbs to fool defenders into thinking he was going one way and then swerving the other.
Chie Koishikawa is the heir to these players. A former fencer, she habitually drops into the kind of squat most commonly seen in people trying to crap down a French toilet, darting backwards and forwards like she’s still trying to outfox her rival swordswoman on the *checks notes* piste. The words “what the hell is she doing?” enter my brain unbidden roughly once every two minutes every time I watch her matches. It’s brilliant. She moves more like a crab than any wrestler I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a wrestler called Hermit Crab. Whether used to scuttle past enemy left backs on the way to the byline or to fly under the radar at corners only to pop up with a glancing header into the far corner of the net, Chie Stance represents a powerful new force in footballing physics. It might leave our right winger vulnerable to being nutmegged, but that’s the price my team will have to pay in its quest to show that deadly motion need not mean deadly speed.
8. Yuna Mizumori (Left Midfielder)
“Hmm, I’m not sure about that one,” you might be thinking. Your centre-back pairing consists of a veteran flair player and a terrified tyro. Surely there’s merit in putting your biggest player at the heart of your defence. Use her size to really bully the opposition’s strikers off the ball, put the fear of God into them.
Sound logic, except that this is a team built for goals, with a setup weighted to place most of the star players into attacking positions. Mizumori is very much one of the standouts of Gatoh Move, having announced herself with a cracking little match against Stardom’s Jungle Kyona just a few months into her career, and this year has made waves in typographically-challenged promotions SEAdLINNNG and Actwres girl’Z, as well as her home office. Additionally, and more pertinently, she is, at her core, as much of a centre back as Jo Swinson is an effective party leader, for many reasons.
Firstly, she sings in a pop group, and centre backs don’t release pop songs. That’s more a thing for creative midfielders, your Hoddles and Waddles. Imagine Razor Ruddock in an idol group. I’m not having it.
Secondly, playing someone with her build on the wing gives us the element of surprise. Mizumori has the speed and athleticism of someone half her size (her big splash where she kicks off the wall is a thing of beauty). Put yourself in the mind of your common or garden pub team full back, looking at the person you’re going to be spending the game marking and thinking, “they look on the heavy side, I don’t think they’re going to give me much trouble”, only to find yourself getting continually done for pace as the big left winger beats you and puts the cross into the mixer at will, because they’re fit and strong and the last exercise you did was running for the number 50 bus into town. That footballer is you. It’s happened to you. Don’t lie and say that it hasn’t. It has.
And finally, this is not a football team that will be averse to a little bit of gamesmanship when needed. If we go into added time protecting a 1-0 lead, who better to hold the ball up near the corner flag than our team’s resident hoss? I can easily see Yuna holding off an entire back four with consummate ease, pausing only to do a flip off the 32Red advert at pitchside.