Yusuke Maruhashi hopes Cerezo Osaka’s revival mirrors his own improved fortunes and that the two march together towards a brighter future.
Cerezo hauled themselves out of the relegation zone with Saturday’s 1-0 win against Urawa Reds at the Yanmar Stadium, with left-back Maruhashi playing his part.
Raised in Cerezo’s fabled academy, Maruhashi was promoted to the first team in 2009 and soon became a regular, catching the eye with his pinpoint crosses and speed of thought.
He continued to develop under Cerezo’s esteemed manager Levir Culpi, who sent him to Brazil to train for three months with Hotaru Yamaguchi, honing their technical skills.
“I had a hard time with the food there,” said Maruhashi. “But I became stronger and Brazil taught me how to always struggle to achieve victory.”
However, on his return things didn’t go according to plan. “After we came back, Hotaru gradually started to play in the first team, but I didn’t have many opportunities,” he said. “I really felt low.”
After spending the first half of 2010 on the bench, Maruhashi knew he needed to do something to kick-start his career.
“I even thought I was going to be released, so I worked as hard as I could,” he said. “I was desperate to succeed.”
By the end of that season Maruhashi had become a regular and, despite his tender years, a symbol of Cerezo.
Now 24, he has added AFC Champions League football to his CV, playing in the tournament for the second time this season.
“I was so glad when we qualified from the group stage, as it was not easy,” he said. “I felt we were representing not only Cerezo, but all of Japan.”
It was something of a learning curve for all, Cerezo going out over two legs to Marcello Lippi’s side, the holders Guangzhou Evergrande, in the last 16.
Maruhashi added: “We still have to improve, we must be much stronger.”
Next on his radar is Japan’s new Mexican manager Javier Aguirre.
“I really want to play for the national team, but to obtain that, what I need to do is now to do my best with Cerezo.
“Our team was not so good recently but from now on we must only focus on winning. Individually, I think I must do more, provide assists and score goals as well.”
A contribution that would help keep his star, and Cerezo’s, in the ascendancy.