We Are Eleven: #10 Captain Tsubasa

You should never underestimate the influence that a captain can have on a team. In the Premier League at the moment, the roles of Cesc Fabregas, John Terry and Steven Gerrard at Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively cannot be overestimated. However, in Japan there’s a captain with a difference.

In an effort to promote the sport in 1981, the Japanese Football Association helped animator Yoichi Takahashi develop a seemingly “small” project that would cater to a younger audience. They logically reasoned that creating a popular cartoon would popularise it with a younger audience. Little did they know it would become a media goldmine, turning Captain Tsubasa into a cultural icon and help usher in a new era with Japan as a regional power in soccer. In several countries, “Captain Tsubasa” translated into “Oliver and Benji,” and a comic book and television cartoon that was born from Japan quickly became an international success—no matter where on the globe you grew up, you knew these characters. We went to Tokyo and met with the cartoonists and creative minds that built this empire.

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For an insight into the We Are Eleven series check out our interview with producer Santiago Stelley.