InterviewFuka Nagano on life at LFC Women, amazing fans and World Cup ambitions
The biggest compliment you could pay Fuka Nagano is the way she has seamlessly settled into the Liverpool midfield gives the impression she has been there for years.
When Matt Beard swooped to bring her to the club in January, her arrival coincided with the team consolidating their position in the Barclays Women’s Super League with crucial victories over the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Reading and Manchester City at Prenton Park to secure a seventh-placed finish.
The Japan international was previously in the USA with North Carolina Courage before taking on the challenge of moving to Merseyside.
In an exclusive chat with the Liverpool FC Women matchday programme, the No.8 said: “All my teammates have really tried to help me to feel a part of the team and I really appreciate that.
“I always wanted to play outside of Japan just to develop my game further, to grow and go to the next stage.
“I always thought that I would need to play outside of Asia, so that was the reason that I decided to leave Japan last year.
“In America, the physical strength and speed of the game were totally different to what I had been used to at my previous clubs and the style was also different.
“In Japan, it’s quite technical and there are usually a lot of passes played around but in America it was much more direct with teams attacking the goal more quickly, so it was very different.
“Then compared to America, here in the UK I think the game is more holistic. I think it fits my style much better in terms of getting on the ball and playing.”
With Nagano sitting in the heart of midfield, this has allowed Beard to push Ceri Holland and Missy Bo Kearns further forward, and the positive performances and results offer real encouragement for the future.
“I didn’t find anything particularly difficult in terms of fitting into this team,” she added.
“I think it's a good position for me. I understand my role and I enjoy playing to support the two players in front of me and it’s good to see them score goals. That then fits me as well, so I am enjoying it a lot and I am very happy that I can play in this team alongside players with great qualities.
“I am confident that if I can play and show what I can do then I can contribute to the team. I knew that when I joined, and it has been good to start to try to do that.”
Despite her short time with the club, Nagano’s popularity with the supporters is there for all to see.
For example, take the fan group ‘2gethertuneless’, who have invented some brilliant songs for the players. Their chant for Nagano is adapted to the classic show tune Tomorrow from the musical Annie.
She commented: “Of course, I am really happy about this!
“I have been here only a short period of time but still the fans sing my song! That makes me feel good but also that I need to do more for them.”
With a World Cup looming in Australia and New Zealand, it is set to be a busy summer for the No.8 as she eyes glory with Japan, who won the competition back in 2011.
Her team are based in New Zealand for their group games against Zambia, Costa Rica and Spain, and excitement is already in the air.
“As a child, I was looking at the TV, watching that tournament in Germany and I was wowed and excited watching Japan win the title,” Nagano said.
“It motivated me to be on that stage one day and hopefully win it too.
“I’m really excited about this summer. It’s been my dream to participate in a World Cup and, as I say, winning the World Cup has been my dream, so I am very much looking forward to it and really excited.”