Kawata is sure he can fire Albirex to first S.League title
ALBIREX NIIGATA v HOUGANG UNITED
(Tonight, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
He is the prolific marksman whose goals have put Albirex Niigata on the brink of their first-ever Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title.
After a dominant season from him and his team, Atsushi Kawata is ready to lead the White Swans to the crown by beating Hougang United at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Third-placed Tampines Rovers are the only side who can still mathematically catch them, but victory over the Cheetahs would see Albirex claim an unassailable 10-point lead with two games to spare.
Having been part of the side that won both the RHB Singapore Cup and The New Paper League Cup last year, Kawata is certain his teammates will have no lack of motivation tonight.
"All of us know it's a big game in terms of the title race," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"From what's been said and the mood in the dressing room, everyone is extremely motivated and we're feeling in good condition."
Although he enjoyed an excellent debut campaign with Albirex last year, Kawata has taken his game to another level and his tally of 18 goals in all competitions is likely to see him feature when the nominees for the end-of-season awards are announced.
The 24-year-old is also in the running for the Golden Boot, although Brunei DPMM star Rafael Ramazotti has recently surged ahead with 20 goals, eight more than Kawata's league tally.
Nonetheless, Kawata revealed a very simplistic focus for his success.
He explained: "All I worry about is going into each game and aiming to score goals. The more goals I score, the higher chance I get of winning an individual award.
"Likewise, the more goals I score, the closer the team are to winning matches and subsequently the title.
"That's all I concentrate on."
Should the White Swans seal a maiden S.League crown tonight, it will warrant huge celebrations but any such plans will have to wait.
Albirex are determined to keep the focus on completing a clean sweep.
They have already won the Community Shield and League Cup, meaning the party mood will only be allowed to set in after the Singapore Cup final against Tampines on Oct 29.
As of now, no special plans have been made should they win an unprecedented quadruple.
However, a club official confirmed, as in previous years, there will be appreciation events for fans and sponsors to express gratitude for the support they have given.
For now, the only thing on their mind is reaching the pinnacle of Singapore football for the first time since their S.League debut in 2004.
Asked if he was confident of scoring to help Albirex seal the title tonight, a calm Kawata replied with a wry smile: "For sure."
From what’s been said and the mood in the dressing room, everyone is extremely motivated and we’re feeling in good condition.
- Albirex’s Atsushi Kawata