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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 大木勉(愛媛FC/愛媛県松山市出身)第1回「愛媛でのプレーが夢だった」

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FORZA SHIKOKU(月曜日更新) : 大木勉(愛媛FC/愛媛県松山市出身)第1回「愛媛でのプレーが夢だった」
投稿日時: 2007-08-06 00:00:00

 これは愛媛FCがまだJFLに所属していた時代の話である。J昇格を目指すクラブをサポートする法人会員名簿に1人のサッカー選手の名が刻まれていた。地元企業の名前が数多く並ぶ中、その個人名はひときわ際立っていた。



 大木勉――地元・愛媛県出身のJリーガーである。高校時代から南宇和で全国大会に2度出場し、当時はサンフレッチェ広島でプレーしていた。
「僕も愛媛にはすごくお世話になった。自分ができることで、ちょっとでも力になれればいいなと思っただけですよ」
 
 サンフレッチェ時代、オフになると故郷の松山によく帰省した。何度かサンフレッチェのホームゲームとして松山で試合を行ったこともあった。そのたびに胸をよぎる思いがあった。「愛媛にもJリーグのクラブができたらな……」

 久保、佐藤寿が認めるFW

 大木は途中、大分トリニータでのプレーをはさみ、計12シーズン、プロの世界で戦ってきた。その間、日本を代表するFWとも数多くプレーしている。久保竜彦、佐藤寿人……。彼らはそろって、大木のことを高く評価する。久保が尊敬するFWのひとりに大木の名前をあげれば、佐藤寿は「吸収すべき点が多かった。攻めだけでなく守りの面でも動きが参考になった」と慕う。玄人が好む玄人プレイヤー。それが大木なのだ。

 プロに入って公式戦で決めたゴールの数は45。点取り屋としての実力は申し分ない。加えて、このストライカーが同僚から認められる理由――それは自らがくさびに入ったり、ラストパスを供給したりと、コンビを組む他のFWを生かすプレーに長けている点にある。
「ちょっと下がってボールを受けてタメ作ったり、リズムを変えたり、中盤での働きもできるFWですかね。ゴール前に張ってというのではなくて、他の人や自分が点をとりやすくなるようなチャンスを何度もつくるのが仕事だと思っています」
 本人も自らの役割をしっかりと認識している。

 そんな大木も昨年、30歳を迎えた。サッカー選手としては既にベテランの部類だ。プロ生活はケガとの戦いでもあった。足首、ひざ、ふくらはぎ……。周囲から大きな期待を寄せられながら、シーズンを満足に送れた年は少なかった。
「毎年のようにどこかはケガしていますね(笑)。若い頃は大丈夫だったのに、年々、疲労がたまるとダメになる。ケアはやっているんですが……」

 06年のシーズンもケガに明け暮れた1年だった。開幕して1ヵ月もたたないうちに、練習中に左ひざを痛めた。「左ひざ内側側副じん帯損傷」。リハビリを経て、ようやく復帰が見えてきた矢先、今度は右足を痛めた。「右大腿四頭筋肉離れ」。結局、公式戦出場はわずか5試合0得点に終わった。プロ生活12年目で最低の数字だった。クラブからは戦力外通告を言い渡された。

 愛媛にとっては“助っ人外国人”

 ケガさえ治せば、J1で戦えるテクニックはある。まだまだ他のJ1クラブでプレーする道を模索することも1つの道だった。しかし、迷わず大木は長年抱えてきた思いを実行に移す。
「いつか愛媛でやりたかったんですよ。それが自分の夢だった。ちょうど愛媛にJリーグもできたし、戦力外でいい機会というとヘンですが、“それなら愛媛でやらせてください”とお願いしました」
 法人会員としてサポートしてきた愛媛FCは昨シーズン、悲願のJ昇格を果たしていた。夢を叶える舞台は整っていた。
 
 大木の14年ぶりの“愛媛復帰”は大きなニュースとして地元を駆け巡った。「大木さんは経験も実績もある。愛媛にとっては“助っ人外国人”のようなものです」。大木の高校の後輩にあたるGK・羽田敬介は加入を喜んだ。
 昇格初年度は9位だったとはいえ、愛媛には外国人選手がおらず、得点力不足は否めなかった。若手主体のチーム編成は徐々に力をつけていたとはいえ、波があった。得点能力があり、チームを落ち着かせてくれるベテランがオレンジのユニホームを身にまとう。これは願ってもない話だった。

「大木は愛媛のサッカーの顔だと思うんですよ。高校時代から活躍して、高いレベルでサッカーをやってきた。今回、地元に恩返しをしたいという気持ちで帰ってきてくれたと聞いています。プレーはもちろん、それ以外の面でも見本をみせてチームのレベルを上げていってほしい」
 望月一仁監督もチームへの“大木効果”を望む一人だ。ケガの影響で、今季も出場こそ9試合にとどまっているが、彼がピッチに入るとゲームは締まる。そして味方にいい流れを呼び込んでくれる。「ベンさん(大木の愛称)は別格です」。若い選手たちは背番号20の背中をしっかりと見ている。

「まだ僕は何もやっていない。結果がほしい。点をとりたい。地元の人にはすごく期待してもらっているのに申し訳ない気持ちでいっぱいです」
 一方の大木は、愛媛に戻っての感想を訊くとそう視線を落とした。シーズンは折り返し地点を過ぎた。が、公式戦では05年11月3日の天皇杯4回戦(対水戸ホーリーホック)以来、1年9ヶ月間、ゴールの味を忘れている。本人にしてみれば愛媛でのスタートラインにすら立てていないという気持ちのほうが強いのだろう。

 愛媛への「ただいま」代わりの凱旋ゴール。これをもっとも願っているのは、サポーターでも関係者でも他の誰でもない。故郷でのプレーを夢見て自ら愛媛に帰ってきたFW、大木自身なのである。

(第2回へつづく)

大木勉(おおき・すすむ)プロフィール
1976年2月23日、愛媛県松山市出身。ポジションはFW。南宇和高時代は同学年の友近聡朗と2トップを組み、2年時は全国高校サッカー選手権でベスト8入りを果たした。青山学院大を中退し、95年、サンフレッチェ広島に入団。デビュー戦(対柏レイソル)で初ゴールを決める。その後は故障に悩まされ、00年には大分トリニータへ期限付き移籍。翌年からは再び広島に復帰した。久保竜彦、佐藤寿人ら日本代表クラスのFWとともにプレーし、その持ち味を引き出すスタイルは高い評価を受ける。07年より故郷の愛媛FCに移籍。これまでのリーグ戦通算成績はJ1で154試合出場28ゴール、J2で51試合8ゴール。177センチ、75キロ。背番号20。






(石田洋之)


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