'I thought about giving up': Kyogo Furuhashi has latest say on Celtic future and reveals his love of swimming

It would be wrong to say there is hardly a pick on Kyogo Furuhashi.
Kyogo Furuhashi says his dream of becoming a footballer nearly died and his childhood passion was swimming.Kyogo Furuhashi says his dream of becoming a footballer nearly died and his childhood passion was swimming.
Kyogo Furuhashi says his dream of becoming a footballer nearly died and his childhood passion was swimming.

Sit in close proximity to Celtic’s whirling dervish of a finisher – who has now added the Scottish Football Writers’ player of the year award to his set of such honours – and you realise there are no picks whatsoever on the 28-year-old. Which makes it a surprise to learn that the first sporting passion of the incredibly boyish striker was in a domain that practically demands the body’s bio-mechanics are outsized. It appears Furuhashi dreamed of being a swimmer, and initially played football just to fit in with the crowd in Ikoma City in Nara Prefecture in Japan, where he grew up. Before catching the bug, only to be left wondering in his final year at university if football wasn’t to be his calling.

“I was a swimmer from three years old,” he said in a gentle whisper, through an interpreter. “But all the kids in the neighbourhood were playing football and I thought, ‘that’s cool’, so I started playing. Even at that age, I was in front of the goal all the time. Every time I received the ball, I’d just shoot and score goals. That was fun for me and it’s how I started playing football. I tried really hard at swimming, I tried to compete in national competitions. At such a young age, I just played football for my love of it. I enjoyed it.

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“But when I got to high school, between 16 and 18, there was a professional footballer in my year. Two players came out of my school to be footballers. That’s when I thought, OK I maybe there’s a chance for me. I was struggling at one point, no-one was really calling me to play for their club. When nobody called, I thought about giving up on my career. But luckily Mr Takeshi Oki [newly appointed coach with Gifu FC] called me with a place on their team and that’s how I started. I’ve always appreciated that.”

Now Furuhashi is appreciated in adoring fashion by the Celtic faithful as he has ripped it up in front of goal in Scottish football across his two seasons since signing in a £4.7million deal from Vissel Kobe, the player passing the 50 goal mark for his goal returns as Celtic confirm the title would remain in Glasgow’s east end with victory away to Hearts last month. Now at Hampden in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle he will look to net for a third straight domestic final appearance as Ange Postecoglou’s men look to seal a treble.

It seems certain that Celtic will receive offers from teams in the big five league for Furuhashi across the close season. Interest that would naturally seem tempting for a forward who this week was restored to Japan’s national team squad, having been overlooked for the Qatar World Cup. The player seems in no hurry to depart a scene where he is the performer to which all others must defer but he does leave himself wriggle room on that front.

“All the players here want to stay as long as they can, and I am one of them,” said Furuhashi, who has two years left on his current deal. “But at the same time, I cannot think too much about the future. You have to concentrate on a daily basis on the training pitch. I hope I can stay and give everything I have.”

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