Defender Tomoki Imai isn’t the only Japanese name new to the Green and Black family. Enter Kyoto local Suguru Obuchi, the latest international fan of Western United.
The 21-year-old football-mad Suguru is a fan of J-League outfit Cerezo Osaka.
But after a recent trip to New Zealand for a brief internship, he decided to see Australia, and so he landed in Melbourne for a short while.
A big Shinji Ono fan (the Japanese great lit up the A-league eight years ago with Western Sydney Wanderers), and keen to experience the football world a little more, Suguru looked up A-League fixtures online and saw Western United were playing in a place called Ballarat.
So, with the help of his Waze app, the Japanese visitor found a train station in Melbourne and off he went on a trip from the Victorian capital to Ballarat.
One long train and bus journey later and he was at the stadium.
Luckily for him, the Western Services Crew took him under their wing as Suguru, in his best English, tells www.wufc.com.au.
“I wanted to watch a football game in New Zealand, but the Phoenix was playing in Auckland and I was not in that city,” Suguru explained.
“I love to watch football games. I searched a lot about the schedule [fixtures] and that’s when I found Western United.
“Actually, I didn’t know United had signed a Japanese player till the half time when I made a friend who told me about Tomoki.”
Suguru headed straight for the actives in Ballarat and soon was feeling at home, even if he had to explain what brought him to Ballarat.
“They were asking me, ‘why are you here?’ And that’s when I told them of my love for football in Japan. I was introduced to more fans.
“And they took me back to the station too. They all welcomed me. So kind.
“Of course I enjoyed the day. I don’t know why but the people in the stadium were very, very friendly to me and welcoming me.
“I’ve been to five countries but the Western Services Crew was very, very friendly to me. I’m very impressed by that.”
Today, (Feb 26) Suguru returns home after a holiday in Sydney. And he takes with him a little bit of Green and Black.
He even got to meet a former teammate of Shinji Ono after Suguru met ex Wanderers star Brendon Santalab at the Western United training base.
“Of course, of course, I want to see Western United play again. You have a new stadium being built, right?
“Absolutely I got to come back, I promise you guys. I hope also to watch online when I’m back home.
“Hopefully Cerezo faces Western United in the Asian Champions League.
“Hopefully the Western United fans come to our stadium in Osaka. The football is very beautiful.
“Football connects us all.”