Tuesday, October 22, 2013

22 October 1977 - That's An Appropriate Shirt Sponsor

On 22 October 1977, Yasuhiko Okudera became the first Japanese footballer to play in Europe when he debuted for Köln in the Bundesliga.

The 25-year old midfielder joined Köln from Furukawa Electric, where he made 100 appearances in eight seasons, while winning a league and Emperor's Cup double in 1976, followed by the Japanese Super Cup in 1977. That summer, the team traveled to West Germany for some exhibitions, where Okudera attracted the interest of Köln manager Hennes Weisweiler.

Japanese football was restricted to amateur status at the time, so the move made him the first professional Japanese player. He arrived on 5 October and made his debut less than two weeks later in an away match against MSV Duisburg, which Köln won 1-2. They went on to win both the league and the German Cup that season.

Okudera remained with Köln for just over three seasons, making 94 appearances, then spent time with Hertha Berlin (1980-81) and Werder Bremen (1981-86) before returning to Furukawa in 1986 to help establish a professional league in Japan.

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