Ko Itakura: The Schalke fans inspired me
Ko Itakura was delighted to walk out onto the VELTINS-Arena pitch for the first time during the 3-1 home win against Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday 28th August and very much enjoyed the full-time celebrations with the fans. “The atmosphere is unbelievable. I tried to imagine how it was going to be before the match, and it actually exceeded my expectations,” commented the Japanese defender, who transferred from Manchester City to FC Schalke 04 on loan with an option to buy just one and a half weeks ago.
Itakura had already witnessed the atmosphere of the home of Schalke 04 many times on television. “I was already aware of FC Schalke 04 and their wonderful fans before my transfer because my compatriot Atsuto Uchida played here. Every Japanese person knows and has a soft spot for the Royal Blues. I always used to watch Atsuto and the team when he was here, and that allowed me to see how important the club is to its fans. I have been looking forward to experiencing the VELTINS-Arena for myself since the day I signed for the club.”
The atmosphere is unbelievable. I tried to imagine how it was going to be before the match, and it actually exceeded my expectations.
The 24-year-old put in a convincing performance playing in the centre of a back three against Fortuna, where he faced up against compatriot Ao Tanaka. The two had recently been part of Japan’s men’s football squad at the Tokyo Olympics and finished in fourth place. During this game, Itakura demonstrated his quality on the ball as well as his love for defending, and on multiple occasions during the game he was the subject of the crowd’s applause.
A phone call with Atsuto Uchida
“The Schalke fans inspired me. They supported us for the entire 90 minutes. The fact that we were able to celebrate this important win with them after the final whistle made it even better,” added the new signing, who played the full 90 on 34 occasions for FC Groningen of the Dutch Eredivisie last season.
Itakura wants to write the next successful chapter of his career here at Schalke. A phone call with Uchida, a Schalke 04 club ambassador, gave the defender the feeling that signing for the club was a very good decision. “I rang Atsuto before my move to Gelsenkirchen, and he explained to me that a brilliant club was waiting for me and that he still loves Schalke,” the Japan international said that this chat made his decision to sign for the Royal Blues a very simple one.