J2 Forever: The Simovic Story
You’ve played all season. You’ve worked hard for the team that you’ve been with for two years now and are consistently in the starting eleven. Your labours are beginning to bare fruit and you can begin to harvest the rewards. This is the truism which Robin Simovic had propelled himself to with Nagoya.
18 goals in the league with the efforts of others too, allowed Nagoya into the J2 promotion play-offs. No matter what happened, nobody could take away the fantastic season that he had there in the Aichi prefecture.
The playoff competition in Japan is like all others. Incredibly cruel on three teams and total ecstasy for one. In Japan, he is recognised for his distinctive shaved head (not a common hairstyle in Japan). He was not only bald but bold in his performances for the team in the playoffs. Simovic relished the semi-final game against JEF United, his goals were the difference. A second-half hat-trick would ensure that Nagoya finished on top of the team from Chiba and advanced. It finished 4-2, thusly bringing life to the equation: No Robin = No Promotion.
The final match was contested against Avispa Fukuoka and was a relatively dull affair ending 0-0. That said, the game story unfolded that Nagoya did enough via the advantage rule. (They finished higher in the league season, so the opposition would have to beat them).
Whilst on the day he didn’t score, Simovic could let the good times roll. A 42 game season which ended in promotional delight. Mission accomplished, back up to J1 at the first time of asking. This historic club could etch another name of the list of attacking legends, to sit alongside Wagner Lopes, Dragan Stojkovic and Gary Lineker. (Hmm, maybe not the last one)… yet there would be a twist in the tale.
Robin’s contract’s end ran parallel with the end of the season. Despite the club’s best efforts to re-sign the striker, he wouldn't put pen to paper for another campaign. Research amongst various foreign language media outlets (mostly in Swedish and Japanese) suggest that Simovic was eyeing a move for his career. Some even suggested that he wanted a move to a top-flight European side.
The more rational and believable Swedish papers evoked ideas that the player would return to the Nordic region, and rebuild his aspirations of playing for the national team. This would be easier for head coach Janne Andersson to monitor him and potentially pick him.
Yet seemingly no offers were tabled to him. It seemed like nobody fancied the idea of a top player from the Japanese second division. Which from a European stand-point may have been understandable.
Although it wasn’t long until new rumours of Simovic’s next destination circulated. In what could be perceived as an impatient decision, the Swede put pen to paper with another Japanese club, Omiya Ardija. Who play in… J2.
The team from the Saitama prefecture were relegated last year, the striker finds himself in the exact same position as he did last year. Except he’s another year older. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the club nor the location (excellent links to Tokyo in Saitama, actually) for a man who wanted to further his career.
All of his hard work from last year was essentially for nothing, he hasn’t received the perks of promotion. He’s stood still and essentially gone backwards, given the fluctuations of the two sides.
Altogether a jarring experience. If like he says, he wants to further his career - playing in a J1 team is better than playing in a J2 team. The decision to brashly leave Nagoya may have backfired - an ill-considered move if you will. Should we be at the same position next year, he’ll have made no progress.
Instead of getting into bed with Omiya, he may have considered waiting a little longer to find a club. His native Sweden doesn’t start playing football until April, so could have waited to see whether he could have forced a move back home to the Allsvenskan as a free agent.
We could, of course, be naive about the whole thing and falling victim to the Swedish man’s shrewd moves. It could be that Simovic realises the extent of his talents and knows he has mastered the J2 division - and can be incredibly successful here. His career has plateaued here in the second flight in Japan, and he wants to continue on the crest of this wave for the foreseeable future. Therefore, remaining in this league is a must for him. Every time he’s threatened to the top tier, he’ll find a way to get back to J2.
Whilst this may seem illogical, there’s some testament to it. In his debut for the club on the opening day of the 2018 J2 season, he had an ecstatic game - already looking at like he’s at home there. Scoring the second goal for the team, which allowed them to beat Ventforet Kofu 2-1 at the NACK5 stadium. Should this be the case, we have to appreciate the eloquence that Simovic has displayed. Finding an ample level for his skill set and sticking with it, even if he may have said otherwise.
Whether J2 is his footballing and careering Zion or not, the fact remains he’s there - and will most likely be there until at least summer. He won’t become the poster boy of the Swedish national team this league but could become the gaijin deity of J2.
We can see Robin in action again at the weekend. He and the rest of Omiya Ardija will take a trip to Tokyo, for their game against Machida Zelvia