Daisuke Miyazaki: The Ichiro Suzuki of Handball (or maybe the Kyle Rote Jr.)

Japanese star, Daisuke Miyazaki has decided to return to home after a one year contract playing for Spanish Club, Alcobendas, in the Liga Asobal. The 29 year old Center Back scored 104 goals in his one season and proved that he more than belonged in one of Handball’s top professional leagues.

According to former Spanish National Team player, Jaume Fort, Miyazaki had a pretty good season. Although somewhat undersized he used his quickness to good effect. For the season he had a shooting percentage was 61% and had the 2nd most assists for his club. Fort, pointed out that he did lack a little in consistency, but that could be at least partly due to the challenges of playing in one of the world's top leagues on a weekly basis. That weekly experience will undoubtedly pay dividends for the Japanese National Team in future competitions and likely factored into his outstanding play at last February’s Asian Championships where Miyazaki led his team in qualifying for the World championships.

For those wondering about the references in the article’s title, Ichiro Suzuki, is a Japanese baseball player who has had a phenomenal career playing in the United States. Despite playing on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Suzuki’s exploits are followed closely in Japan with a team of Japanese reporters traveling with the Seattle Mariner’s to every game.

Handball is a not one of the top sports in Japan, so Miyazaki played in relative obscurity in Spain. Certainly, he didn’t have a travelling band of reporters following him around. His national profile has been enhanced, however, from several appearances on a game show which literally translates as “Pro Sportsman #1”. The game show features Japanese athletes from several sports performing unique sporting challenges and Miyazaki has won the title 3 times in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

And hence the reference to Kyle Rote, Jr. With the World Cup in full swing it’s amusing to note in the 1970s that Rote was easily the most widely known American Soccer player. Not for his exploits on the pitch, but for his prowess in a made for TV competition show called the Superstars. The show featured stars from several sports competing in obstacle courses and other events and this was the first time I became aware that there was such a thing as a professional soccer player. U.S. soccer has come a long ways in the intervening 30+ years and maybe it’s time for a new generation of Americans to be introduced to the concept of a professional Team Handball player in much the same way.

I’ve noticed that a U.S. version of the Japanese obstacle course called Wipeout is starting up again. For some strange reason, ABC somehow thinks it’s more interesting to have out of shape nobodies try to complete the course. I’m predicting, though, it’s only a matter of time before they wise up and get some real athletes taking part. And when they do why not get a Team Handball athlete to take part? I think somebody like Gary Hines would do well.

Mlive.com (3 Jun 10): Handball: Miyazaki to return to Japanese league next season: http://www.mlive.com/sportsflash/index.ssf?/base/sports-311/1275558261150770.xml&storylist=sports
Miyazaki Youtube profile video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8i3YiLA8ok&feature=player_embedded#
THN (19 Feb 10): Japan grabs the remaining World Championship slot in overtime thriller!: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.961
Marca.com (8 Oct 09)L Mizayaki has gone from being a star in Japan to a private citizen in Alcobendas: http://www.marca.com/2009/10/08/balonmano/1255002046.html
“Sasuke” Ninja Warrior Gameshow Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7hoKN9g1U8&feature
Daisuke Miyazaki Official Website: http://pakila.jp/daisuke/
Kyle Rote, Jr Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyle_Rote,_Jr.
Ichiro Suzuki Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichiro_Suzuki
Superstars Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstars