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Saitama: Kawasaki Frontale striker Yu Kobayashi is intent on repaying the faith of the club’s fervent fans in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.

The 29-year-old struck a brace in his side’s 3-1 win in the first leg a fortnight ago, and wants to finish the job in style away from home.

The Kawasaki players and supporters share a very close relationship, which Kobayashi explains spurs the side on in their quest for glory.

“Frontale have really close bonds to the local area,” the Japan striker said.

“I think we probably put on more events where we get to come into contact with our supporters than many other clubs. The fans become interested in the team because they get to meet us there, and then they come to the stadium to get behind us in the games. For us players, that becomes a real motivation.”


After his goals in the first leg Kobayashi was presented with a pair of pineapples by one supporter – an unusual ritual which has become a custom at Kawasaki’s Todoroki Stadium.

“For many years now a supporter we call ‘Pine’ has been doing that – they give the players who score a pineapple,” Kobayashi laughed. “It’s just a kind of joke.”

That ceremony is lighthearted, but Kobayashi knows how important the contributions of those off the pitch are to Kawasaki’s chances of success.

“Amongst the Frontale fans that supporters have real strength and do a great deal. They went to Rikuzentakata to help with the recovery efforts (after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011) and distributed pineapples amongst the children there too, and they are someone who give a lot of strength to Frontale. It would be great if we were able to repay them for that.”

There is sure to be a fantastic atmosphere in Saitama Stadium for the second leg, and Kobayashi is relishing the chance to step into the cauldron.

“Urawa are a great club and there is always a brilliant atmosphere whenever we play them, which is really enjoyable. That naturally serves as a motivation out on the pitch.”

The principal stimulus for Kobayashi, however, will be coming from the smaller but no less vocal blue and black corner of visiting fans.

“Everything (from our supporters) gives us strength. There is a feeling of fighting together with them and no sense of pressure at all.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports