Takashi Odawara came to the Philippines in 2015 to fulfill the dream of becoming a professional football player. Little did he know that his years of hard work and sacrifice would yield a path to the biggest stage and into something deeper and more personal.
Plucked from obscurity, Odawara came from being out of a club in 2018 to becoming a Philippine league and cup champion in 2019. Now, the Japanese midfielder is now on his way to Thailand to play in the second stage of qualifying against Port FC in Bangkok next week.
The Ceres-Negros player is still in disbelief of playing in the highest level of club football in Asia after experiencing a very challenging period in his career.
After having been dropped by his former PFL club, Odawara jumped around Manila’s amateur leagues in the last two years in order to keep fit. But last Tuesday night, he debuted on the Rizal Memorial pitch playing against the Myanmar champions in Shan United.
“I didn’t imagine this,” said Odawara. It’s like dream come true because six months ago, I had no club. I was looking for a team and now I play in the AFC Champions League. This is amazing.”
Odawara also marveled on the level of competition he experience in stage 1 of qualifying after he and Ceres-Negros managed to produce a win against Myanmar champions Shan United last January 14.
“It was very exciting for me because this is my first time to play an international match. Actually, everything is very different not like the PFL. The high level and everything else was good and it was a nice first experience to me,” said the Philippine league veteran since 2015.
Ceres-Negros will next face a high quality side in Port who were crowned the FA Cup champions and are gearing for a title challenge in the Thai League title after finishing third in 2019.
Odawara is well aware of the of the difficult match that lies ahead but is also looking forward to the possible reward of playing against a very familiar club should the busmen get through to the next round.
“I grew up in Japan and since I was young, I would always watch the games of FC Tokyo with my family,” said Odawara referring to ACLU Playoff contenders FC Tokyo who are waiting in the final round. “All their home games, I watched. So I really want to win the next game and want to go Japan and play against my dream team,” he added.
“My family and friends in Japan are very happy every time they see me play for Ceres-Negros FC. I wish I can play in front of them in Japan and against my boyhood club in FC Tokyo,” said the Copa 2019 MVP.
Odawara and Ceres-Negros FC will have their chance for to the ACL Playoff when they face Thai FA Champions Port FC at the PAT Stadium on January 21.
Kickoff is set at 7PM local time (8PM Philippine time). Broadcast/livestream details will be announced on ceresfootball.com and the Ceres-Negros FC social media pages.