‘Martha the loser’. It is a nickname for Masatoshi Ishida (28, registered name Martha), a Japanese player of the professional football K-League Daejeon Hana Citizen. It came from what he said in an interview ahead of the 2021 second division promotion playoff game. “I consider myself a loser in my football life. But there is one game that can change your life like this. Promotion, I risk my life on this.” Daejeon coach Lee Min-seong said, “It gave all the players an opportunity to look back on themselves. It was a word that brought our team together.”
Although they failed to get promoted at that time,안전놀이터 last year’s Massa and Daejeon succeeded in promotion to the first division. It was the first division in 8 years of Daejeon. Then, after the start of this season, it is stirring up the first division, overturning the expectation of being a weak player. After announcing a refreshing start with a 2-0 victory over Gangwon FC in the opening game, they went up to second place with an undefeated 5 matches (3 wins, 2 draws). On the 1st, Martha scored a dramatic winning goal to make FC Seoul 3-2 at the end of the game. Daejeon slowed down after losing to Suwon FC last week, but finished 4th out of 12 teams. If this continues, it is possible not only to stay in the first division, but also to pass the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, which is given to third place in the league. At the opening meeting of the K-League held last month, coach Lee Min-seong said modestly, “I will use it as a stepping stone to staying by winning 5 of his first 11 games,” but the momentum is not unusual.
Martha, whom we met at Daejeon Deokam Soccer Center on the 11th, regretted saying, “It would have been better if we had been promoted last year, but I’m sorry to the fans.” Why did he call himself a loser? During his youth, Martha was one of Japan’s leading prospects for his stable dribbling and wide vision. He was also expected to succeed Keisuke Honda (37, retired), the Japanese national team leader. In 2014, at the young age of 19, he made his professional debut in his J-League Kyoto Sanga, but has since stagnated without being able to break away from his promising career. After 5 years of sluggishness, he came to Korea in 2019 after receiving an offer from K League 2 Ansan Greeners. “I originally dreamed of going to Europe,” said Martha.
And the moment of inflection has come. He couldn’t play for a month and a half in Ansan, a foreign country he came across with great enthusiasm. He was excluded from the selection because he did not live up to expectations in the beginning. At this rate, it seemed that his football life would really be over. I went to see the director. “If you can’t, you can release it. Let me run,” he said. He got that chance and scored 9 goals in 13 matches. He said, “At that time, I knew the power of the mind. He thought he was on the edge of a cliff, so there was nothing he couldn’t do. Even now, I always run with that determination.”
Now 28 years old. It’s quite an age. In Korea, he is fighting each game with the attitude of ‘risking his life’. “Everyone tries not to be a loser, but I think there are bound to be more days spent as a loser. The joy of victory is short-lived, and the despair of defeat has great aftereffects. I didn’t have the ideal career I thought I would have. A loser in football life. But now I am happy receiving lots of love from the fans in Daejeon. I hope many ‘losers’ everywhere besides football can be comforted by seeing me.”
The immediate goal that Martha faced is to win the match against first place Ulsan Hyundai (18 points) on the 16th. Ulsan, who has won 6 consecutive wins since the opening, challenges Daejeon to set the record for the most consecutive wins (7 wins) in the opening of the K-League. It is also a chance in Daejeon (11 points). If you win, you may jump back to second place depending on the results of the other team’s match. “Ulsan, I don’t think there is a law that you can’t win. Let’s risk our lives again this year!” he was hooked