By Stephanie Gardner
The dream began 5,819 miles away from where this skillful and determined player now resides. Kosuke Kimura, (Kōs-kay Kih-mooh-rah) born in Kanagawa, Japan, grew up loving soccer. He and his brothers would spend every spare minute in the street, playing this exceptional game.
Once the J-League began in 1993, Kimura’s dream intensified as he watched this sport rise to a whole new level. He became focused on one thing, becoming a professional soccer player. From a young age, he was cheering on his hero, Ruy Ramos. Kimura (photo) commented, “I wanted to be like him, hard-working, talented and skillful.”
By the age of 15, Kimura was already playing for the Kawasaki Frontale reserve team. During his junior year of high school, he suffered a stress fracture to his fifth metatarsal (the bone connecting the ankle to the little toe.) This was a painful injury that should have put an end to Kimura’s dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
However, as a result of Kimura’s hard work and unmeasurable determination, he was back on the pitch in just 10 months. By the time he had fully recovered, his team gave him a second chance. Yet the team itself was in need of help, and with no money, his team went down to Division 2. This was a major obstacle in the pursuit of his dream that caused Kimura, now a senior, to make a life changing decision.
“Back then In Japan, if you don’t go pro after high school, you don’t go pro at all,” Kimura explains. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do? Quit my dream, like everyone else, and start working? I had spent so much time for soccer, everyday, sacrificed so much to follow this dream’.” Kimura reveals, “That time in my life was so hard for me. My dream was all that I had, all that I knew.”
During that season of his life, Kimura had a teammate who was moving to America in order to attend college, with hopes of going pro after graduation. He invited Kimura to join him. This opportunity sounded like the chance to fulfill his dream, and make all his tireless effort worth it.
His father told him, “Kosuke, I will support you whatever you want, but make sure once you start it, you do not finish until you can’t do it anymore. When you can’t do it, then sit back and think about what is next; but for right now, give it everything you have.” Kimura decided to attend Western Illinois, without knowing a word of English. The soccer coach immediately pulled him aside and told him to attend an ESL class. Kimura soon found himself as captain of his college soccer team.
After college, he played with the Thunder Bay Chill in the USL Premier Development league. In 2007, at the age of 23, Kosuke Kimura found himself witnessing his dream coming true by being drafted to the Colorado Rapids.
Kimura not only made history in his own life by becoming a professional soccer player, but he also made history in the US, by becoming the first Japanese-born player in the MLS. His perseverance in making his dream a reality had been rewarded.
Although, not in the Japan League, Kimura appreciates where his journey has taken him. He describes the difference between J-League and MLS by saying, “definitely Japan is more skillful. In Japan players start playing when 5-years old, training 6 days a week. MLS is more dynamic, physical, and fun to watch.”
Last year, Kosuke Kimura was “Man of the Match” against Dallas. He would love to have that honor again. He states, “If I keep keep doing what I am supposed to do, I will have more chances to attack. By doing that, maybe I can create scenarios for the team by assists, and maybe my name will be up there.”
Undoubtedly, Kimura is a solid player who sweats and bleeds determination. As for his Colorado Rapids, it was a much-needed win against San Jose on Saturday, thanks to Kimura’s assist which led to an own-goal. The match proved that they are an aggressive, consistent team earning their way to the post season.
Kimura is looking forward to these next few games. He observes, “We have the right players, and we trust each other. If we just stick together for the full 90-minutes, we will have what it takes to make it to the playoffs.” His number one priority is his team and getting results from working hard.
Kimura’s teammates and coaches are quick to share the fact that Kimura (photo) is the hardest working player on the team, and is always the last off the field. He hopes his hard work and skill will allow him to play every game, and get more results; so that one day the Japanese national team will give him a call.
On the day of this interview, Kimura was once again the last man off the field. It became evident, however, that it isn’t just because he is the hardest working player. It is also because he is enjoying every minute of his dream coming true.
(A special thanks to my Japanese-speaking husband, Tim Gardner, for taking time to interview his favorite Colorado Rapid.)