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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 阿部吉朗(湘南ベルマーレ/愛媛県新居浜市出身)第1回「J1昇格へ導いた不屈のストライカー」

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FORZA SHIKOKU(月曜日更新) : 阿部吉朗(湘南ベルマーレ/愛媛県新居浜市出身)第1回「J1昇格へ導いた不屈のストライカー」
投稿日時: 2010-05-03 10:11:00

 2010シーズンJ1第8節、湘南ベルマーレ阿部吉朗のヘディングがゴールに突き刺さった瞬間、平塚競技場は沸きに沸いた。今季11年ぶりにJ1のピッチに戻ってきた“湘南の暴れん坊”は、阿部の1ゴールを守りきり、ベガルタ仙台を下して今季2勝目を上げた。決勝点を決めた阿部は「練習通りのゴール。シーズン1点目ということもあるけれど、勝ち点3を取れたことが嬉しい」と、自らのゴールを振り返った。

 昨年、J2の昇格争いは熾烈を極めた。最終節まで昇格の可能性を残していたのは湘南ベルマーレとヴァンフォーレ甲府。湘南の最終節は、アウェーでの水戸ホーリーホック戦だった。ここで勝ちを収めなければ昇格が厳しくなる湘南は前半20分までにまさかの連続失点。青ざめるような展開で、絶体絶命のピンチに追い込まれた。そんな危機的状況を救ったのが、阿部だった。反撃となるゴールのきっかけを作るヘディングシュートから始まり、前半34分のヘディングシュートに後半8分の逆転ゴール。阿部の頭が湘南をJ1の舞台へ導いたといっても過言ではない。

 阿部が本格的にサッカーを始めたのは小学3年の頃。愛媛県新居浜市で生まれた阿部が、家族の転勤のため大阪を経て茨城県つくば市に引っ越してからのことだ。兄の影響で地元のサッカークラブに足を運ぶと、周りの友人が在籍したこともあり、自然とサッカーの魅力に取り付かれていった。

 阿部が中学校に上がった1993年、日本サッカー界にとって大きな出来事が起こる。Jリーグの開幕である。阿部は開幕戦となったヴェルディ川崎と横浜マリノスの試合を友人とともに国立競技場で観戦していた。もともとこの頃にはサッカー選手になりたいという夢を持ち始めていた。しかし、12歳の少年にとってJリーグ開幕というのは、自分の夢をさらに大きなものにするきっかけとなった。「こんな世界もあるんだ」。ヴェルディファンだったという阿部は三浦知良、ラモス瑠偉、都並敏史といったスター選手のプレーに釘付けになっていた。

 自ら切り拓いたプロへの道

 地元の中学校でプレーしていた阿部は高校進学にあたり、地元にある常総学院を選択した。常総といえば高校野球の名門校だが、サッカーでは実績があるわけではない。県大会でもベスト4止まりで、全国に名を轟かす強豪校と呼べるサッカー部ではなかった。

「僕が常総を選んだ理由は、練習が好きなだけできるからなんです。まず、ナイター設備がある学校を選んだ。そうすれば時間を気にせず好きなだけサッカーができますよね。当時はプロになるためには、自分で練習していればいいと思っていた。学校は家から目と鼻の先でしたから、チャイムが鳴っていたら聞こえるようなところだった(笑)。毎日夜10時ころまで練習していました」

 阿部のサッカーに対する情熱はすさまじいものがあった。とにかく練習をした。強豪校ではなかったため、部員の全てが熱心にサッカーへ取り組んでいるとはいえなかった。「もっとできるはず」。阿部は部員を叱咤しながら、高校生活の中で実力を磨いていった。

 ここで一つの幸運が阿部に味方する。常総学院には筑波大学の学生や学校関係者がサッカーを教えに来ていた。そのうちの1人に中野雄二がいた。流通経済大学の指導者である中野は、真剣にサッカーに取り組む阿部の姿を見て「プロを目指すなら、流経大に来い」と声をかけてくれた。現在はJFLにも参加するほどの名門である流通経済大学だが、当時は2部リーグに所属する大学。それでも、プロになりたいという一心で、阿部は中野の言葉を信じ、2部リーグへと飛び込んでいった。

「当時のチームは2部に昇格したばかりで、地域リーグと2部を行ったりきたりするようなチーム。それでも、僕にとってはサッカーに没頭できる環境があり幸せでした。高校の頃は、周りの部員を盛り上げなければいけませんでしたが、大学には本当にサッカーの好きな選手がいた。大学では最後までがんばったやつらが残っていく。それはすでに、プロと一緒でしたね」

 流経大で着々と力をつけてきた阿部は中野の推薦もあり、デンソーチャレンジカップの選抜メンバーに選ばれる。そこでゴールを量産し、日韓大学定期戦の日本代表にも選出された。その日韓戦でも2得点を上げ、MVPを獲得。高校、大学では決してエリート街道を歩んでこなかった阿部が、一気に全国へ名を知らしめる存在となった。

 この時、破竹の勢いで名を上げた阿部の存在を見守る男がいた。日本代表歴代3位の37得点を記録した名ストライカー、原博実だった。

(第2回へつづく)

>>第2回はこちら
>>第3回はこちら
>>第4回はこちら

<阿部吉朗(あべ・よしろう)プロフィール>
1980年7月5日、愛媛県新居浜市生まれ。小学3年時からサッカーを始め、常総学院高校を経て流通経済大学へ。関東大学リーグ2部に所属するチームで頭角を現し、大学4年次には日韓定期戦メンバーにも選出される。02年11月、FC東京と契約、大学在学中に天皇杯でデビューを飾る。その後、大分、柏を経て、08年にJ2・湘南ベルマーレに移籍。昨年は48試合に出場し10得点。特に最終節水戸ホーリーホック戦で2得点を上げ、クラブのJ1復帰に大きく貢献する。10シーズンは先発出場の機会が増え、4月25日ベガルタ仙台戦で、自身にとって4年ぶりのJ1ゴールを決めている。Jリーグ通算186試合出場、32ゴール(10年4月30日現在)。174センチ、72キロ。




(大山暁生)


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