Born in Jamaica, playing for Japan
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
His name fits the profile, but his darker complexion and bright yellow boots hinted that Musashi Suzuki's roots probably ran a bit deeper than Japan.
So, just before he took the field against Jamaica at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup on Saturday, it was left to Suzuki's mother Mariko, who watched her son play at the Estadio Universitario, to confirm what many here had been hearing for days.
"He was born in Jamaica," she said.
Make no mistake, Jamaica could have used Musashi's talent. He entered the action for his adopted home as a second-half substitute and immediately impacted the game, which Japan won 1-0. Tall, slender and quick, he got behind Jamaica's defence repeatedly and came close to scoring.
According to Mariko, who came to Jamaica 1989 and worked as a tour guide and ran a restaurant, Musashi never expressed interest in representing Jamaica. She had returned to Japan with the boy when he was six years old, after he had attended St James Prep in Montego Bay for two years. Up to then Musashi spoke English and patois. He has since visited Jamaica more than once, the last time when he was 12. But today the 16-year-old is clear about his allegiance.
"He is pure Japanese," said Mariko. "He doesn't speak English. He just speaks English a little and his mind is in Japan now ... . He forget about everything (Jamaican)."
Not even Musashi's Jamaican father Robert Hamilton was told his son would be playing for Japan at the World Cup.
"We don't contact him," said Mariko, who visits Jamaica every two years and still has a home there.
While his Jamaican genes may help explain his speed and athleticism, Musashi's football development is exclusively Japanese. In Jamaica the boy showed little interest because the main ingredient was missing.
"There were no soccer balls, no nothing," said Mariko, who is from Gumma prefecture, 100 kilometres from Tokyo. "Nothing at all at school so he usually kick plastic bottles, cans."
That changed when he arrived in Japan. By age seven Musashi told his mother he wanted to play. Mariko wasn't too enthused by the hassle of becoming a 'soccer mom', but went along.
"So I actually let him join the club at (elementary) school," she said. "I let him play there."
Today Musashi is one of Japan's bright young talents. Although Mariko supports him, she is not really convinced.
"(I don't) know why he was selected," she said laughing. "Maybe he's tall."
Musashi has a younger brother Sho, who was also born in Jamaica. He too enjoys football and came here to watch his brother play. Mariko 'sometimes' tells them about their birthplace, but doesn't believe either one will want to play for the Reggae Boyz.
"I don't think so," she said.
However, Mariko wasn't so sure about Musashi's reaction to playing against Jamaica.
"He didn't say anything special," she said, "but maybe his mind is in between Japan and Jamaica."