Japan Women’s Soccer Pioneer Takes on Challenge as Uzbek Manager

Courtesy of the Uzbekistan Football Association via Jiji Press
Midori Honda

Tokyo, May 3 (Jiji Press)—A pioneer of women’s soccer in Japan is taking on a new challenge as manager of the women’s national team of Uzbekistan.

In April, the Uzbek team, led by 58-year-old Midori Honda, passed the first Asian qualifying round for the 2024 Paris Olympics after winning all three matches.

“It was our biggest mission,” Honda said. “I’m relieved.”

A former member of the Japanese women’s national soccer team and a native of the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka, Honda has managed Japanese women’s teams Okayama Yunogo Belle and AC Nagano Parceiro.

In 2007, she became the first woman to earn the Japan Football Association’s Level-S coaching certification, which allows holders to become managers of teams in the Japan Professional Football League, or J.League.

As part of the JFA’s contribution program for Asia, Honda signed an agreement with the Uzbekistan Football Association in January last year to manage the women’s national team of the Central Asian nation.

The current situation of women’s soccer in Uzbekistan is “like the situation in Japan 35 years ago,” she said. “Very few people (in Uzbekistan) have an understanding of women’s soccer,” Honda said.

But that very situation gives her hope that the Uzbek team has plenty of room to grow. “I think Uzbekistan could be an interesting team in about 10 years,” she said.

Managing the Uzbek team is her first overseas challenge, and it has been full of surprises. “It’s hectic every day,” Honda said.

According to her, members of the team, including support staff, are routinely late for training, and nutrition and injury management for players is inadequate. There was a time when the team could not use a field due to double bookings.

“Getting angry does not solve problems. So I cleared them with patience,” Honda said.

Uzbekistan may come face-to-face with Japan in this autumn’s second Asian qualifying round for the 2024 Olympics.

“I’ve seen the scenes of Japan conceding goals for decades,” said Honda with a grin on her face. She showed her eagerness to face her home country’s team.