Japanese players have, of course, become a regular feature of the Hyundai A-League over the years.
Led, at least in terms of profile, by Western Sydney Wanderers legend Shinji Ono, the likes of Jumpei Kusukami, Hirofumi Moriyasu, Yuji Takahashi and Yusuke Tanaka have all made their mark on the competition.
And their influence has not gone unfelt here in the west, most recently through Ryo Nagai, the technically-gifted attacker who chalked up 26 appearances for the club between 2012 and 2014.
But Glory’s first Japanese representative pre-dated Nagai by some seven years and was very much a trailblazer in terms of players from the land of the rising sun opting to ply their trade Down Under.
Hiroyuki Ishida was, of course, the man in question, an enigmatic attacking midfielder who featured on 16 occasions for Glory during the inaugural A-League season of 2005-06.
His story is a fascinating one and with the kind assistance of Yasuo Imanari from The Perth Express, we were able to get the now-retired Ishida to tell it in his own words.
Perth Glory Online: Thanks very much for your time, Hiro.
You first moved to Australia to join Sydney Olympic in 2001. As a 21 or 22-year-old, was it a big challenge moving to play in another country and was it hard to adapt to the different language, culture and so on?
Hiroyuki Ishida: It was a big challenge for me, but the circumstances were still much easier than when I went to Brazil on my own aged just 16. I was lucky to have such great teammates and a great manager [Gary Phillips] at Sydney Olympic Sharks. I learned a lot of things from them.
PGO: You enjoyed some great success with Olympic, helping them to win the NSL in 2002. What are your best memories of playing for them? The fans loved you there!
HI: I have a lot of great memories of my time there, but if I had to pick one, it would be the match against Perth Glory in the 2002 Grand Final. I was really grateful that I could play in a stadium packed full of fans who created such a great atmosphere.
PGO: Olympic beat Glory in that game and you came on as a substitute. What do you remember of the occasion?
HI: I still remember that moment when the final whistle went and we knew it was over and we’d won the match. The biggest impression I took away was seeing both the winners and losers after the match was over. It just showed that the result is all that matters.
PGO: You also played for Olympic in the 2003 Grand Final but this time lost to Glory; what was that experience like?
HI: I only really have one memory of that game and that is that although I started rather than coming off the bench as I had the year before, I didn’t play very well.
PGO: Why did you decide to join Glory for the start of the A-League in 2005?
HI: Basically because I heard from my agent that Glory’s owner at the time, Nick Tana, appreciated my abilities.
PGO: Steve McMahon was Head Coach of Glory at the start of that first season. What was your relationship like with him and why do you think it didn’t work out for him at Glory?
HI: As I was not good at English, I think I couldn’t understand very well what he said to me! So I’m still not sure whether I made a relationship with him at all! But I think there were other problems at the club at the time, so it would be wrong to blame just him.
PGO: Who were your closest friends in that Glory squad and what are your best memories of playing for the club?
HI: The players at Glory helped me a lot. I spent much time with Stuart Young and Naum Sekulovski off the pitch and the goalkeeper, Milan Jovanic, was a funny guy. I also spent time with Billy Celeski and we had dinner together when he was playing in Japan. In terms of my on-field memories, Matt Horsley’s final game is probably the best one. I though he was a true professional.
PGO: You are still involved in football now – can you explain what your role is?
HI: I set up own company two years ago and we do a number of things. We develop soccer schools and organise football tours and study abroad expeditions to Brazil, but I also work mainly as an agent for football players. You can click HERE to visit the company’s website – it’s all in Japanese, I’m afraid, but please check it out if you can.
PGO: And finally, how do you think Japan will do at this year’s World Cup?
HI: Japan are in a tough group with Columbia, Senegal and Poland. But I think if they start well, they can get through to the knockout stages.