The Yomiuri ShimbunYOKOHAMA — After his hat trick in the season finale helped Kawasaki Frontale capture a first-ever J.League championship and propelled him to the scoring title, forward Yu Kobayashi was not a shocking choice as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
The real surprise would come later, after he accepted the award in a gala ceremony at Yokohama Arena on Tuesday night.
Kobayashi, who finished with a league-high 23 goals, became the sixth player in league history to receive both the MVP award and the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the same season.
“I will work hard to keep improving and not bring shame on such an amazing award,” the 30-year-old Kobayashi said in a speech.
Kobayashi was all smiles when he was surprisingly joined on stage by his wife and two small children, both wearing Frontale shirts. The older son presented him with a bouquet.
Kobayashi’s hat trick came in a 5-0 win over Omiya Ardija on Saturday, and allowed Frontale to leapfrog over Kashima Antlers and win the title on goal difference.
“It was great that we never gave up,” Kobayashi said.
Kobayashi was also among a league-high four Frontale players who were named to the Best Eleven team.
He was joined by veteran midfielder Kengo Nakamura, last year’s MVP from whom he assumed the team captaincy this season, as well as defenders Elsinho and Shintaro Kurumaya.
Nakamura was chosen for the seventh time in his career, the third most in league history.
“I wanted to show how a 37-year-old player can still make it here,” Nakamura said. “Age has nothing to do with it. Although the recipients keep getting younger, I want to show I can still compete with them.”
Both Kashima and third-place Cerezo Osaka placed two players each on the squad, which included seven first-time selections. Antlers defenders Gen Shoji and Daigo Nishi were selected along with Cerezo midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi and forward Kenyu Sugimoto.
Sugimoto finished with 22 goals, and was denied the scoring title by Kobayashi’s last-day spree. He also scored in Cerezo’s victory in the final of the YBC Levain Cup.
The other selections were: Kashiwa Reysol goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura, Gamba Osaka midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi and Urawa Reds forward Shinzo Koroki.
Shoji, Yamaguchi and Kobayashi became two-time recipients.
“I wanted to win the title and earn a place [on the Best Eleven], but that will have to come next year,” Shoji said. “The experience of winning a title [last year] then letting one get away makes a player stronger.”
The Best Eleven team was chosen by a league selection committee based on polling of the league’s 18 coaches and players who had appeared in at least 17 matches this season.
Meawnwhile, Reysol defender Yuta Nakayama was named the Best Young Player. Nakayama started 30 J1 matches this season, and also played in all four matches at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
Cerezo’s Yoon Jong Hwan was named the top coach in the first division.
The best goal of the season went to Takahiro Sekine, who currently plays for German club Ingolstadt. Playing for Reds in a match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on July 1, Sekine weaved his way through six players to score a thrilling last-minute goal. Speech