Yasuyuki Nagatsuka’s deep-rooted love for Croatian football has guided his life’s journey. From a chance encounter in 1996 to relocating to Croatia and becoming a respected journalist, his devotion to the sport and the country remains unwavering.
Born in the Japanese city of Nagoya in 1973, Yasuyuki currently resides in Tokyo. His love affair with Croatian football began in 1996 when he discovered the Croatian national team during the EURO tournament in England.
A year later, he attended a friendly match between Japan and Croatia, donning the famous checkered jersey and passionately supporting the Croatian team.
“Two months after the game, I visited Croatia using a week of my annual leave. I watched the famous match “Dinamo vs. Newcastle” at Maksimir Stadium live. I witnessed an explosion of emotions during that match. I am completely in love with the country of Croatia and Croatian football. After the trip, I immediately resigned from the bank where I was working at the time because I felt that I wasn’t living emotionally and spontaneously like the Croatians. That was a turning point in my life,” he tells us.
A Fascination with Croatia
After visiting Croatia as a tourist five times, Yasuyuki made the decision to move to Zagreb in 2001. Enrolling at the Faculty of Philosophy to study Croatian language, he quickly immersed himself in the world of journalism and photography, establishing connections with many individuals in the football community.
Everywhere he went, Yasuyuki was warmly welcomed as a member of the Croatian “family,” which further fuelled his enduring love for the country. Perhaps the physical distance between Japan and Croatia only intensified his passion.
A Decade of Dedication
Over the unforgettable span of ten years, Yasuyuki has diligently followed Croatian football, providing frequent reports to the Japanese audience. In 2019, he received the prestigious “Mizuno Sports Writer Award” for his book “Eastern European Football Chronicle.”
Nagatsuka has also translated Luka Modrić’s autobiography, “My Game,” into Japanese.
Writing for the Japanese Audience
Currently, Yasuyuki regularly writes articles about the Croatian national team for the Japanese web-media outlet “footballista“.
Notably, he has produced articles after each match played by the Croatian team in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Following the 2018 World Cup, there has been a growing number of Croatian fans in Japan.
After Qatar, the chief editor of “footballista” approached Nagatsuka with the idea of publishing a book titled “Moeru Vatreni,” which would compile his articles about the Croatian national team.
We spoke to Yasuyuki, who speaks fluent Croatian, to find out more about the new book.
The Book: “Moeru Vatreni”
“Moeru” holds two meanings in Japanese: “favourite” and “burning,” he tells us. “This book reflects my deep respect and love for the Croatian team.” The book is divided into the following chapters:
“Tuge i radosti Modriceve generacije” (The Sorrows and Joys of Modrić’s Generation): This chronicles Luka Modrić’s journey from the defeat against Turkey at EURO 2008 to the opening of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“Broncana medalja zlatnog sjaja na Svjetskom prvenstvu u Kataru” (The Bronze Medal’s Golden Shine at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar): This explores the stories of all seven matches played by the Croatian team at the World Cup in Qatar.
“Razliciti izvori Vatrenih” (Various Sources of the Vatreni): Presenting biographies of eight players: Borna Sosa, Joško Gvardiol, Josip Juranović, Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Lovro Majer, Dejan Lovren, and Mislav Oršić.
“Tajna razvoja talenata koja se spaja sa buducnosti” (The Secret of Talent Development That Connects with the Future): Which Features interviews with three individuals: Romeo Jozak (former Technical Director of the Croatian Football Federation), Krešimir Šoš (current fitness coach for Gorica, known for training “ninjutsu”), and Lovro Majer.
“Additionally, there are two articles about the Croatian diaspora and Ivan Rakitić,” he adds.
An Affinity for Lovro Majer
Among the many beloved players, Nagatsuka holds a special fondness for Lovro Majer.
He first met him in 2019 and later rediscovered a photo in his archives, which gained public attention. The picture captures Dinamo Zagreb captain Luka Modrić alongside a ten-year-old Lovro Majer.
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“Moeru Vatreni” can be purchased exclusively on the Japanese market, and also can be found on Amazon Global HERE.