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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 第68回 生粋の“FW”気質の持ち主 長沼健・日本サッカー協会最高顧問

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二宮清純「フットボールの時間」(10、20日更新) : 第68回 生粋の“FW”気質の持ち主 長沼健・日本サッカー協会最高顧問
投稿日時: 2008-06-20 23:50:00

 去る6月2日、日本サッカー協会最高顧問の長沼健さんが他界した。77歳だった。
 長沼さんと言えば日本代表監督としてメキシコ五輪で銅メダルを獲得。協会副会長時代にはプロ化に尽力し、会長時代は日韓ワールドカップを実現させた。


 まさに長沼さんの人生は日本サッカーの近代化の歩みそのものだった。
 あまり知られていないが日本代表のW杯初ゴールは長沼さんによってもたらされた。1954年の韓国戦。雨中での伝説のゴール。日本代表のW杯への挑戦は、あのゴールから始まったと言っても過言ではない。
 思うに長沼さんが次々と難局を打開できたのは生粋のFW人気質の持ち主だったからだろう。

 そこで今回は古い取材ノートの中から“長沼語録”を紹介してみたい。

「結局、チームワークとかチームプレーということが、日本人の本来持っている精神構造とどこか結びついて、目立ってはいけないとか、縁の下の力持ちが必要だとか、そちらの方に傾き過ぎていると思うんです。
 もちろん縁の下の力持ちは必要です。常にどんな世界でも。しかし何のためにいるのかといったら、縁の上にいる人間を光らせるためでしょう。みんなが縁の下にいて、よいしょ、よいしょと持ち上げていても仕方がない。縁の上に光を当てるのが目的で、縁の下があるのに、どこかで逆転してしまった。
 それに最近、目立ちたくないという人間が増えていませんか。ストライカーというのは変といわれてもいいのです。『点をとってナンボ』という精神が大切。やはり関西弁が一番いいですね。私は学校が関西(関学)なものですから」

 メキシコ五輪銅メダルの立役者といったら得点王に輝いた釜本邦茂さんだ。彼の素質に惚れ込み、エースの自覚を持たせたのも長沼さんだった。

「釜本君は、日本が勝っても自分が思うところで点が取れなかったら、ものすごく不機嫌なんです。当時は“勝ったのに楽しくないのか”なんて非難する人はいなかった。
 いま試合が終わったあと、プロ野球でも自分がホームランを打ったことによりもチームが勝ったことがうれしいと。こういうコメントがものすごく多いですね。
 釜本君は負けたときは楽しそうな顔はしないけれど、二点も三点も取れたときは“ワシはやったぜ”みたいな顔をしていました。それがストライカーというものですよ」

 そして、こう続けた。

「統率する側から見れば、大きな欠点のない、そこそこできる“60点選手”と言いましょうか、それを集めた方が運営は楽だと思います。大敗はしませんから。そこそこ勝ったり、負けたり……。
 しかし強い相手に立ち向かう時は、それではダメです。何かを持っていなければならない。“これが”というものをね。
 たとえば釜本君には“右45度”があった。その角度で彼がワンタッチでボールを処理したら、次の瞬間、もう私たちはベンチで腰を浮かせたものです。ここに来たら絶対に点が取れる、と分かっていましたから」

 日韓ワールドカップの開催も長沼の功績だ。最初は日本がリードしていたが韓国が猛然と巻き返し、勝負の行方は混沌としていた。
 投票にもつれこんでオール・オア・ナッシングに委ねるか、それとも共催の道を選ぶか。長沼は苦渋の決断を迫られる。
 それについて長沼は後にこう語った。

「実は共催を選んだのは釜本君の次の一言でした。“ワールドカップというのは長い間(34〜78年)、16(チーム)でやっていたんです。共催でも(32チームの)半分の16(チーム)は日本にくる。ワールドカップを日本の子供たちに見せてやりましょうよ”と。まさに至言でした。
 あの日、私は記者会見で“志半ばである”と素直な感想を口にしました。FIFA(国際サッカー連盟)は我々の上部団体ですからFIFAが共催にカジを切ったら、それに従うしかなかった。
 ここから先は韓国とひとつになって、これまで世界がやったことのないワールドカップをやってやろうと記者会見では大見得を切りました。他に選択肢がなかったんですよ、あの時は・・・・・・」

 もし投票に持ち込まれていたら、どうなっていたか。勝利したのは日本か、それとも韓国か。それは誰にもわからない。
 ただ共催を通して日本と韓国の距離が縮まり、東アジアにおけるサッカー熱が高まったのは紛れもない事実である。

 「あの大会が成功だったのか失敗だったのか、それは後世の人たちが決めることです」

 長沼はそう語った。自らの決断に瑕疵はなかったと言わんばかりの口ぶりで。

(この原稿は『経済界』08年7月1日号に掲載されました)


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