Reo Hatate explains Scottish football to Japanese audience; enjoying life at “faster” Celtic

Celtic midfielder Reo Hatate has compared his experience at Parkhead to his time back home at Kawasaki Frontale.

Hatate managed to win two J-League league titles with his former club before moving to Glasgow in January 2022. Reo would then play a huge role in bringing the Scottish Premiership trophy back to Parkhead as well.

It’s been an interesting integration into Scottish life for Hatate, who has had both ups and downs in terms of individual performances in his first 5 months at Glasgow.

Celtic FC v St Johnstone FC - Cinch Scottish Premiership
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

However, he has spoken to Japanese media about the quality of Scottish football when comparing it to the J-League. As quoted by Sportiva Shueisha, Reo said: “With Celtic unbeaten since January and winning the league, some people in Japan may see the Scottish Premiership as lower. But when you actually experience it, it’s different. Sometimes we won games 7-0 or 6-0, but games against opponents at the bottom of the table were neither comfortable nor easy wins.

“The teams at the bottom of the table when they play Celtic come to us with the attitude that they want to cause an upset. The lower-ranked teams will find their own way to victory, for example by forming defensive blocks and countering with lower-ranked teams. I felt that kind of dominance from my opponents when I played for Frontale as league champion and now that I play for Celtic I feel the same motivation from my opponents.

“Just as there is no right answer in football, I think the style Celtic aspires to is football and the style I embodied at Frontale is football too. Since I’ve only played for these two teams as a professional, I can’t help but make comparisons. But Celtic’s pace of play was faster than Frontale’s. The speed at which you approach the goal, the speed at which you return to defend yourself, the speed at which you approach the ball. Every part of the game felt “faster” than I experienced on the court in Japan.”

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The J-League is widely recognized as the premier league in Asian football. It’s a good standard with many top leagues across Europe bringing out top Japanese talent who were trained there.

Celtic appear to be joining this trend as well, having sacked Japan for 4 signings last summer. We all know this is an area of ​​the world that Ange Postecoglou knows well after his time with Yokohama Marinos. However, it is interesting to see that Hatate thinks the style of football is faster in Scotland.

We know we have good players and difficult teams in this country. But often it’s just us who really preach it. Players who come from a good league, like Reo, praise our game and it’s a boost for Scottish football. He’s effectively educating the Japanese audience about the quality of the game over here.

Celtic FC v Dundee United - Cinch Scottish Premiership
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

And given some of the difficulties both Hatate and Daizen Maeda have had, you can see that it has taken a period of adjustment. Playing for Celtic has always been a step up for all of our Japanese signings. They have been brought to a level and intensity of football that they have not experienced in their careers.

But they wouldn’t have been brought here either if Ange Postecoglou hadn’t believed they could bring something big to the cause in the long run. Hatate has a lot of confidence in himself from the manager and that will comfort him.

It will be absolutely fascinating to see what kind of player he develops into over the next year.

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