This is Yatao – “I still have unforgettable memories of Celtic,” Koki Mizuno

Koki Mizuno, who joined Celtic at the age of 22 and joined Iwate Grulla Morioka in J3 League from this season, looked back on the time he spent at Celtic and speaking to the Japanese media this week, recalled his time at the Scottish Champions…

“I regret that I should have faced football more seriously. When I remember Shunsuke Nakamura at that time, he was very stoic about football. He always came home not only after training, but also after an hour of training using stationary bike after every game.

“Also, he was very concerned about maintenance of his own body. Even though I was seeing him up close, I couldn’t do anything like him. At the very least, I regret that I could have changed the part of how I faced training. I think that if I had taken more care of my own body before and after games, I wouldn’t have been injured.”

Mizuno played at Celtic for two and a half years from 2008 to 2010, but his result was 11 games in the league and just one goal. He looked back on the challenge in Scotland as follows.

“Strachan said, ‘You don’t have to be in a hurry. It will take a while for you to adapt to the environment here.’ He understood that Scotland is different from Japan in many ways, such as differences in play rhythm with J-League, pitch conditions, and changes in living conditions, so it takes time for me to adapt to those environments.

“He also said this. ‘Naka joined Celtic after playing in Italy. This is your first time playing in a country other than Japan. So you don’t have to hurry.’ I was encouraged by his words and decided to prepare to play firmly.”

Also, Mizuno was not able to fully master English, but it seems that communication with his teammates was good. After that, he seems to have quickly got used to life in Scotland.

Just before the start of his second season at Celtic, he damaged the meniscus in his right knee. However, at the end of the season, he returned to team, received a pass from Shunsuke Nakamura in the game, dribbled, and scored a spectacular goal. This is his first and last goal at Celtic.

Koki Mizuno also talked about the influence he received from Shunsuke Nakamura as follows…

“The existence of Shun-san (Shunsuke Nakamura) was great for me at Celtic. His attitude and words on the pitch had a big impact on my performance. He said this to me. ‘You have to play with more of your own features. When it comes to the quality of shooting and speed of running, you have something better than other players.’ That’s how he encouraged me.”

“I played from the first start in the game after I came back from injury. I couldn’t get a pass at all in first half. At half-time, he said to me, ‘You didn’t receive a ball at all in first half, did you? From second half, if I hold the ball, you should trust me and definitely start running. I will absolutely send you passes.’

“And as he said, the moment he held the ball, I started running forward, and he sent me a wonderful ball in front of me. I played a lot of time on the side in this game, but only at that moment I was running towards centre.”

Mizuno played a total of 10 games in that season and built the base for stable performance, but Strachan and Shunsuke Nakamura left the team after the end of the season, and immediately after the next season started, he suffered a serious knee injury again and had to concentrate on recovery for a long time. 

After he finally played only one game that season, his agent said, “You should return to Japan once and get ready to play again.” and Mizuno decided to go back to Japan.

But he said the following at the end of his interview about playing at Celtic.

“I have no regrets at all that I chose to join Celtic. Unless I challenge, nothing will be born. That’s my own way of life. If I think I might have succeeded, I should have tried harder not to regret it. But I have no regrets about joining Celtic.

“The time I lived in Scotland for two and a half years is my treasure. There were a lot of things I couldn’t experience until I actually left Japan and went there.”

“I still have unforgettable memories of Celtic. That was the moment when I scored a goal, my teammates celebrating, and everyone, including goalkeeper, rushed to my place to praise me. They called my name “Koki” repeatedly, we hugged, and they blessed me.

“At that time, Gordon Strachan was also so happy on the bench that he injured his hamstring when he jumped. I could feel that I was recognised in this team. The pleasure of that moment was unreplaceable.”

That’s all. He injured his knee some times after leaving Celtic, but it seems that he revived his playing career many times, remembering his memories at Celtic each time. He is only 37 years old. As a J-leaguer, he joined an another team from this season and re-started. I will continue to follow his career.


READ THIS…Celtic’s Forgotten Japanese Star, Koki Mizuno

About Author

I am a Content Creator and Origami art Creator, Analyst working for think tank in Japan and I joined this team in May 2023 and started to write articles as Japanese Celtic author for The Celtic Star. I live in Kobe(Japan) and have followed Celtic after 14 October, 2006, when I had watched the game against Dundee United FC - Shunsuke Nakamura scored a hat-trick. Also I am an enthusiastic supporter of Vissel Kobe, and I am familiar with various information and history of J-League. I have been posting threads on trajectory and background of Celtic Japanese players on Twitter mainly since summer of 2022 in order to further deepen the bond between Celtic and Japan. This time, I'm so proud to be more committed to Celtic by joining The Celtic Star team. I'm good at changing of viewpoints, so please expect my articles written from fresh perspective.

1 Comment

  1. Conall McGinty on

    Great article Yatao, I have fond memories of Mizuno and remember the goal he speaks about well. Definitely had talent but things just seemed to not work out for him at Celtic. Always thought perhaps Celtic fans expected too much from him as we compared him to Nakamura who was an absolute superstar. Glad he still looks back on his time in Glasgow with happy memories.