Rise from the Shadows - Story of Yakkuru Yamagutchi

  1. Rise from the Shadows - Story of Yakkuru Yamagutchi

    First of all, I have never written a FM-story before. Even though I have looked for example from others, I'm going to do it my way, and it will probably be wonky at first. If you have some advise for me, I will gladly listen and learn.

    Secondly, this story is based in custom made team in custom made league in unplayable nation, so there will be a lot of fictional content; otherwise there would be holes everywhere. I have tried to make things rational and smooth, but if something feels simply wrong and you would have a better solution for it, I would very much like to hear it.

    Thirdly, if you think "Where is the FM part in this?", please note that because everything is made from the scratch, these first few posts will be only introduction to the background of my character and everything around him. From there, the game will be more present.

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    Every team, every league, at first comes from nowhere. But they are born and they grow, they are build with and from the love for football. And as years go on, each team and each league either rises or falls, gains glory or gains nothing. This is a sport that lives, evolves and always offers the unexpected. And that’s why I hold it so dear.


    That colorful history, and the changes of today are not just the source of my everlasting curiosity but also were my profession. Working behind the scenes, I was the expert, the consultant to many clubs around the world. I offered my advise and let others take the credit; fame was not something I was after. But in my work I heard about many things you could only hear from inside; many rumors which, in the end, were nothing more than rumors.

    And 2010, while working at Germany for Bayern, I heard another rumor. Back then I thought it was so wild, so absurd, that it couldn’t possibly be true. But I was wrong. And against all odds,Young Stars was born.

    The idea was rather simple but at the same time, unheard of. It took the concept we were used to, and turned it upside down. Founders of Young Stars wanted to create a haven for young, talented players, where they were not backups, not hot prospects, but key players, captains and stars. Haven where those players did not have to wait for their time, because their time was now.

    And where this haven laid? In Liechtenstein.

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    Never heard of it? Resting in the heart of Alps, it’s the 6th smallest country in the world; but quickly it turned into one of the biggest countries in the history of this sport. And if their biggest income had been agriculture, it soon was football.

    The five founders, Rubert Degrelle, Annabella Baskerville, Lumier Locklear, Emmett Grimm and Raul Ravenstain, formed the inner circle of Young Stars Football Association; highest authority over the newborn competitions. And right away they made some interesting decisions. YSFA ruled that each team had to be named after Greek mythology, so the competitions would share the same background... And they invented ”Stadium Rotation Agreement”. It was obvious that there would not be enough free space for all the stadiums needed, so they decided to build two stadiums in the top of each other; the team of lower league would play at the bottom, the team of higher league at the top. They also decided that all the stadiums would be owned by YSFA, and stadiums would be appointed to the teams at the start of each season. As so, teams that had been promoted would rise to the”second floor”, and teams that had been relegated would have to settle with indoor stadiums with artificial lightning. This was the most creative solution I have ever encountered. And that’s something.

    In four short years, the Young Stars had two new leagues, 24 new teams, and a reputation so fierce, that it challenged even the English Premier League. Young players all over the world forced their way out from their clubs, fighting for their place in Liechtenstein; and even some big figures in football got involved. When José Mourinho was forced to leave Chelsea, he took over FC Zeus; and when Lous Van Gaal departed from Manchester United, he became the manager of FC Apollo.

    I had followed all this with great interest, but that was all.

    Until that one phone call. As the Young Stars prepared to its very first season, Steve Holland, assistant manager of FC Ares, contacted me. We had been working for Chelsea at the same time. And now he asked me to step up as the manager for his team. Me, who had never played or never coached, never leaded?

    But I did put pen to the paper... My days in the shadows of others were over.

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    9th of July, 2014
    6 am

    With pre-season only a few days away and a lot of work before me, I took the first flight from Tokyo to the St. Gallen-Alterheins Airport in Switzerland; closest airport to Liechtenstein. Those 12 hours I spent on learning as much as I could about Young Stars. FC Ares was one of the 12 teams in Champions Division, the higher of the two leagues. Champions Divisions was 4th most famous competition in the world... If the expectations had felt heavy before, they were even heavier now. The whole world was watching.


    Even though I was blessed with eidetic memory, the amount of information was suffocating. Names, dates, rules... So much to learn and so little time. I had of course had interest in Young Stars before this but not nearly as intensive. I couldn't help the feeling that each and every detail was vital.


    My flight landed at small hours and the breath of chill summer nights air was soothing. I decided to stop for a moment. As I lighted a cigarette and looked at the Alps in the distance, I felt that finally my nerves did not get the best of me. Sure, I was in a though spot. But I had been in a though spot before. Making vital decisions for others could not be very different than making them for myself. Only this time, I was the one who would take the blame.


    I catched a bus from the airport and traveled through the capital, Vaduz, to Triesenberg. YSFA had appointed one of the stadiums as the home of FC Ares for this season, and without relegation, for seasons to come. While I was traveling, I bought few of the new football magazines devoted to Young Stars. And what did I find from the front page?


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    I was on the news before even arriving to the country. I should get used to this rather sooner than later... Let others doubt me; as long as I do not doubt myself.

    When I arrived to my apartment I had only few hours to rest before meeting with the chairman, Silvio Berlusconi, at the Gladiator Arena. Stadiums were named after the team currently occupying it and were renamed by YSFA before each season, if needed, as part of Stadium Rotation Agreement.

    I had to make sure there wouldn't be a such need...
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    9th of July, 2014
    9 am


    Three hours of restless sleep later it was time to get up and get out. When I arrived to the stadium there was one familiar face I waited to see:

    Steve Holland.
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    “Yamagutchi, good to see you. Looking better than ever. Expect... You seem to be dead on your feet.”


    “Holland, already making me smile? I hope that will last... But, yes. Slightly. You did not give me too much time to waste.”


    As we walked towards the meeting room there was something that I had to ask; something that bothered me.

    “Tell me, Holland...Why did you recommend me? Of all people?”


    Holland gave me small smile.


    “Because I saw how you handled the Chelsea-case. Even though nobody agreed with you, and even though it was... a make it or break it kind of situation, you kept calm, stood your ground and were right in the end. You acted like a real manager, Yamagutchi. And now you are one too. And with your determination, composure and experience, I would say that we are in safe hands.”


    I was halfway through the door when I realized that he was not coming with me.


    “Mister Berlusconi wanted to meet you in private. We can talk things through afterwards.”, Holland said. I was on my own... And face to face with my new employer.


    Silvio Berlusconi.
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    Former prime minister of Italy, a rich and powerful businessman, and owner of AC Milan... Working under him would not be easy task for anyone. I knew that if I couldn't convince him of my proficiency, my career would end before it even started.


    I shook his hand, looked him in the eyes. I was calm and confident; I knew I could do it. I just knew it.


    “Mister Yamagutchi.”, he said as I took a seat. “I feel that you are a man I can be bluntly honest with. Am I right?”


    “Of course, sir.”, I said. “I wouldn't hope you to be anything else.”


    “Well then. You have no history as a player, correct?”


    “Yes sir.”


    “And you have no coaching badges of any kind?”


    “No sir.”


    “And this is your first post as a manager, am I right?”


    “Yes sir.”

    He looked at me for awhile, and then asked the question I had been waiting for.


    “Then why did mister Holland recommend you to me? If you have no experience what so ever when it comes to football...”


    “Because I do, mister Berlusconi. Football has been my work for many years.”


    I don't know which surprised him more; the fact that I was bold enough to interrupt him, or the fact that I was bold enough to claim such thing.


    “Then why I have never heard about you, mister Yamagutchi? Explain it to me.”


    I opened my briefcase and handed him a thick folder.


    “Because my work has always been confidential. But in that folder are the reports, contracts and recommendations of my previous employers. Please, take a look.”


    He seemed doubtful; but as he looked through paper after paper, it turned to disbelief.


    “Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Zenit, Manchester United, Bayern, Paris Saint-German, Juventus... You have worked for all these clubs and still, never been heard of?”


    I smiled.


    “Naturally. If the fact that someone else was making decisions for the manager was public, it wouldn't give very good impression of their talents, would it?”


    It looked like I had broke through to him... Until.


    “Wait a moment, mister. According to this, you have worked for AC Milan? This must be a fake.”


    I forgot to remove that one from my folder...


    “It is not, sir. However, it is true that I was not hired by you to work for your club.”


    He slammed the paper against the table.


    “Who hired you, then? I want a decent explanation, mister Yamagutchi, as right now this..”


    He slammed the paper again.


    “...And every single one of these is nothing more than a hoax to me.”


    That Italian temperament... Sigh.


    “I was hired 2001 by mister Fatih Terim, who worked as a manager for AC Milan at the time. He wanted me to... save his face after the mistakes he had done. Unfortunately for him, less than a month later he was sacked. I had no time to turn things around.”


    I looked him in the eyes.


    “My only interest is the one I work for, and do not swear loyalty to anyone beyond it. But as long as I work FC Ares, my loyalty lies at Gladiator Arena.”


    Silvio Berlusconi was quiet for a while, before nodding, now surpisingly calmly.


    "I can't say I blame you, mister Yamagutchi. I don't know a single manager who would hold very high his former club... And even though you did work behind my back, I believe that your efforts to aid mister Terim in the end were also efforts to aid his club.”


    He stood up, and we shook hands.


    “Just... Don't do it again.”, he said smiling.

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    9th of July, 2014
    10:30 am


    As I stepped out from the office, Steve Holland was waiting for me. He smiled and patted my shoulder.


    ”Yamagutchi, you made it! Not like I would have expected anything else but... You never know.”


    I smiled slightly.


    ”Be honest with me, Holland. You were more nervous than I were.”


    ”Well, yes, but... Better me than you, right?”


    As we walked towards my new office I looked at my watch.


    ”I have a meeting with players at 5pm, and right after it Berlusconi wants to introduce me to the media... So you have six and a half hours to turn me into a manager. Think you are up to it?”


    ”You can count on me, Yamagutchi. I'll be right beside you. And you already know how to be a manager.”


    ”...only in theory, Holland. Only in theory.”


    We made ourselves comfortable and while I smoked, Holland walked me through the daily duties of the manager. Micromanagement, he called it. All the small details formed a bigger picture, and that big picture was everything.

    ”It's a damn sure that there will not be a moment of rest in my days.”, I said and sighed.


    ”Don't be like that, Yamagutchi. You won't be actually doing most of this; you just oversee it all and make the big decisions.”, Holland said.


    ”But now you know what it takes to run the club, you must understand that the key is to know it like the back of your hand. Every player has to be like your own son, or... something like that. Backroom staff, well... It's not so bad if you forget name or two. At least if it's not mine.”


    ”How could I? Simon Hullman, the one and only.”


    A little bit of humor was exactly what I needed.


    ”Let's at least try to be serious, now? Before you can know your club you need to know your competition. How familiar are you with Young Stars?”


    ”Not nearly as much as I would like to. I guess you're about to give me a lesson?”


    ”Sure. Young Stars has two leagues: Lower is Challengers Division, and higher is Champions Division. That's where we are. All 12 teams meet three times.”


    ”So team will play 36 games in a season?”


    ”League games, yes. But for us there is three cups in together to worry a... I mean consider. Champions Division Trophy, Legendary Cup and Young Stars Crown. Legendary Cup is... Well, just a super cup. Like... English Community Shield. As this is the very first season to us all, it won't be held this year. One thing less to be bothered with, right?”


    I nodded. Surprisingly, Holland was very pleasant to listen to. His examples were very simple and clear, although, so very English.


    ”So, yeah. Then there is Young Stars Crown. It's just like... The Capital One Cup in England, or any other competition like it. Nothing new expect the name. As far as I know, the big boss Berlusconi doesn't really care about it, neither do fans, so it takes some weight from our shoulders.”


    What did I just say?


    I tried to keep my eyes open, but it was harder and harder. Holland looked at me, then at the clock.


    ”I... don't think we should even try to speak about squad and tactics today... You're a dead man walking by now. Why don't you use the remaining time to get some rest? I go talk to the backroom staff, arrange meeting so you can hear what they have to say. It's surprising how much they have to offer... Well.”


    Before he left, he turned to look at me and smiled.


    ”And, Yamagutchi... I'm glad you are here.”


    I took of my coat and laid down to the couch. I had few hours before yet another meeting, and I sure hoped that players would be more accepting that ”the big boss Berlusconi”. But yet... Holland was not the only one who was glad that I was where I was, right there and then.

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    9th of July, 2014


    4:55 pm




    ”What the hell is wrong with you?! We had three goal lead before the half time, and you... somehow... managed to lose it! We concealed five goals in less than 45 minutes!”


    I slammed the table and looked at my team. This was third time they had done this to me; they just gave up mid game. The big boss Berlusconi was growing more and more inpatient with me.

    ”Guess where we are now? In relegation zone. We have six games left. If we want to stay in Champions Division, we need a damn miracle!”


    I shook my head. I was done. There was nothing I could do.


    ”....I don't believe that any of you can be the hero we need.”


    I raised my head and looked at... one of them. Somehow his face was... Vague. Like I wouldn't have seen it before now.


    ”And you... You were supposed to lead. You were supposed to be an example. And what were you? A disgrace! ...This was your last game as a captain. Believe me.”


    I was about to say something, when... I heard a voice?


    ”...Yamagutchi? Yamagutchi, wake up.”


    I startled and rose up, rubbing my face. Holland was standing next to me, looking worried.


    ”...I don't speak Japanese, but you seemed to be quite angry. Did something happen?”


    I shook my head and took a deep breath. I had been dreaming. We had not lost anything yet. I was far from done. Everything was alright...


    ”No.. It was just... a dream.”


    Holland gave me small smile and a bottle of soda.


    ”Not a good one, I guess. But I'm afraid you have to pick yourself up rather quickly, Yamagutchi.”


    I looked at the clock and stormed to my feet.


    ”Damn damn damn... They are waiting, aren't they? The players?”


    Holland calmly handed me my coat.


    ”Not yet. I told the coaches to keep them in training a little longer. If we go now, we'll be just fine.”


    Just fine...


    As we headed towards the locker room I tried to take a deep breath and shake that dream away. Not just the anxiety, but the anger. Nobody hadn't had the chance to get get under my skin yet; heck, they had not even seen me before. They deserved my respect, and if I wanted them to accept me, I had to at least appear to be a manager they could count on.


    Calm and confident now, Yakkuru, calm and confident...


    When we arrived the players were still on the field. I had a chance to get a quick look, and what I saw... surprised me.


    ”What... area are they training at, preciously?”


    Holland leaned on the wall and smiled shortly.


    ”Nothing. We have ran a balanced and universal training, just to keep them occupied. We wouldn't want to do your job, would we?”


    He was quiet for a while.


    ”But I must say that teamwork and cohesion must be something to take into consideration...”


    I knew what he meant. A team that thought as one and acted as one was one with good, solid foundation.


    Our conversation was cut short as the players arrived.


    Suddenly the room was quiet and full of electricity. I watched their expressions and behavior. They watched me. Everyone was waiting... Not knowing what to expect.


    After a short while I broke the silence.


    ”I'm the new manager, Yakkuro Yamagutchi. I'm looking forward to working with you.”


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    I noticed that his hesitation was shared with his team mates. But before anyone could say anything more, one of the lads, leaning on the wall, spoke.


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    It seemed to be the question many of them had thought; but nobody said aloud.



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    I raised my hand.


    ”It's fair thing to ask, lads. Yes, this is my first time as a manager. But that doesn't mean that I'm not able to be one.”




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    ”Have any of you ever been a first team regular? A key player? A big name?”



    My questions seemed to cause confusion... but finally it was followed with series of head shakes. I smiled.


    ”No? So this is first time for all of us. But I'm most confident that each and everyone of you are more than able to become one. I believe in you, so have a little faith in me.”


    Slowly the ice seemed to melt away.


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    ”So, what do you expect from us then?”, asked Kingsley Coman. Click image for larger version

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    ”A good, solid pre-season, to begin with. The chairman wants us to reach 6th position this season; but nobody has said we couldn't climb any higher.”


    ”Mid-table? Come on, we can do better than that, right?”,

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ID:	1009227 said Nathaniel Chalobah, looking at others.






    ”If we give everything we got in every game, we can.”, agreed Jason Denayer. Click image for larger version

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    ”That's what I wanted to hear. Good that you have the hunger, lads.”, I said smiling.


    ”Well, that's about everything. Tomorrow after training we'll have a team meeting, alright? We'll talk through tactics then.”


    Players got up and left; expect one.

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ID:	1009229 Victor Camarasa staid, waiting for others to go.


    ”Something on your mind, Victor?”, I asked; I had few minutes before meeting the big boss Berlusconi for press conference... but I wanted players to know that I always had time for them.


    ”Well, boss... Have you already decided the captains?”, he asked.


    ”No, I have not yet made any decisions.”


    ”I just wanted you to know that I'm more than ready to step up, boss.”, he said and smiled.


    Eager. Maybe a little too eager?


    ”I appreciate your ambition, Victor, but won't promise anything. It's not a decision I want to make lightly.”


    He seemed to be disappointed.


    ”I... get where you're coming from, boss. But if I can prove myself to you, will you give the captaincy to me?”


    ”...As I said, I won't make any promises. Off you go now, Victor. Get some rest.”


    When he had left, I looked at Holland.


    ”...Well?”


    He shook his head.


    ”Good heavens, no. Absolutely not.”


    I smiled shortly.


    ”...Thought so. But we need to come up with something... I don't want to upset him any further.”


    We left and I prepared to be thrown to the wolves. I mean... reporters.
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    9th of July, 2014


    6 pm


    I waited at the top of the stairs, leading to the entrance. Through the windows I saw journalists and photographers. After twelve I stopped counting. Few minutes later Silvio Berlusconi came, and was now far more jovial.


    ”Exactly in time, mister Yamagutchi. Punctuality is a virtue, wouldn't you say?”


    ”I would, sir, yes. But before we go... A word, if I may?”


    He looked at me and smiled.


    ”Of course, mister Yamagutchi, of course. Is there something you would like to me to know before we go?”


    I looked him into the eyes; hoping that he would take me very, very seriously.


    ”Although I know that it could give me some... credibility, I must emphasize that my past occupations must remain as secret. I hope I can trust that what we discussed earlier will stay between us?”


    Berlusconi nodded and looked outside.


    ”Naturally. Even though your experience is a very powerful weapon, I do give my word. I understand that you still have some... obligations.”


    It was a relief; nobody expect Berlusconi and Holland knew about my past, and I wanted to keep it that way... I had to. I had agreed to professional secrecy.


    ”Well, let's not keep them waiting. Just know that you have my full support, mister Yamagutchi.”


    We headed outside... Flashing cameras were almost blinding. And I immediately saw that unlike me, Berlusconi was used to handling the media.


    ”Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Gladiator Arena. It's my great pleasure to introduce you the new manager of FC Ares, mister Yakkuru Yamagutchi.”


    Maybe slightly... pompous start, but somehow he managed to make it sound natural.


    ”James Anders, FourFourTwo. Mister Berlusconi, experts have said that mister Yamagutchi's inexperience will be costly. Do you agree?”


    I glanced at Berlusconi; it had to be tempting, reveal to everyone that they were wrong... But it would be disastrous for me.


    Berlusconi put his hand firmly on my shoulder.


    “No, I do not. After meeting mister Yamagutchi, I have realized that this man is a raw diamond. Hiring a manager who is pure talent through and through is not costly, but great investment and one-time opportunity.”


    That comment would cause some disturbance, surely... But the reporters were already moving on.


    “Jean Durand, World Soccer. Mister Yamagutchi, pre-season has already started as you step in. Do you feel you are prepared well enough?”


    “I'm confident, yes. Lost time can be made up by hard work; and I'm privileged to have an assistant manager with incredible amount of knowledge and experience. When season starts, FC Ares will be ready.”


    Those were some big words... I just wished they would not come back to haunt me. But showing sings of insecurity to reporters would be just as bad as letting a hungry shark to smell fresh blood.


    Fora moment the focus was shifted away from me.


    “Hans Schröder, Kicker. Mister Berlusconi, there are rumors that link Jürgen Klopp back to FC Ares; is there a chance that he will claim the post of the manager here at Gladiator Arena?”


    Berlusconi did not hesitate; and I was glad he didn't.


    “FC Ares already has a manager; there is no interest from our side whatsoever. Mister Klopp showed some attitude which in my opinion should be took into consideration by his future employers. However, in the end his decision to renege was our fortune, as we now have mister Yamagutchi.”


    Berlusconi spoke very highly of me... I hoped it was not just for a show.


    “Günther Zimmerman, Young Stars Today. Mister Yamagutchi, as your origins are in Japan, you now find yourself from other side of the world. It must be exciting to get to work in new and very different culture?”


    One question among the others... Expect that it was asked not in English, but in German. That was an old trick, and quite nasty, actually. An easy way to discredit someone; make him stumble and use the poor impression against him.


    I'm sorry, mister, but your trick wont work this time.


    “Yes, it indeed is. I had the pleasure to read your article about me, mister Zimmerman. I can't wait to prove you wrong.”


    I answered in German; I speak it fluently. Just as fluently as I speak French, Spanish, Italy, Russian, English and of course Japanese.


    I looked him in the eyes. It seemed that I had already made my first enemy.


    After few seconds of deep silence Silvio Berlusconi took the control of the situation.


    “This will be all for today, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for you attendance. Good evening to you all.”

    Doors closed behind us, ans as I glanced outside, I saw that Zimmerman staring at me. What did he have against me? Was he just the type who thought that the dirtier the story the better, or... was there something personal in it?


    “What was that all about?”, asked Berlusconi, as we walked away.


    “I wish I knew, sir. But I want to thank you for you support.”


    Berlusconi smiled.


    “I meant every word, if that's what you're thinking, mister Yamagutchi. I'm sure that FC Ares is in good hands.”


    He shook my hand.

    “Well, I have a flight to catch... I'll keep contact with you.”


    Berlusconi took his suitcase and looked at me.


    “This was quite a performance for a debut, mister Yamagutchi. I hope you will continue to impress me.”


    “I'll do my best, sir. Bon voyage.”


    He left, and it was time for me to call it for a day.


    First day had indeed been eventful... But enjoyable. I hoped that the days to come would stay fresh and interesting. And somehow I had very little doubt about it...

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