The Saga of Tomsan

Great article about our friend over in Japan – Tom Byers!

The Saga of Tomsan: How an American journeyman revolutionized Japanese soccer—and why it isn’t happening in the U.S.

A page from a 1999 KoroKoro comic.

By Brian Blickenstaff
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, at 12:00 AM

Courtesy of Tom Byer

In 2009, Zinedine Zidane, the legendary soccer player, participated in a coaching clinic in Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Children and parents filled the stands. The mood was jovial. Zidane was a once-in-a-generation sort of player, a kind of mad genius remembered today as much for his ball skills as for the infamous 2006 World Cup headbutt. The parents in attendance hoped some of those skills, like his signature pirouette (not the headbutt), would rub off on their children. But as Zidane and the gathered coaches began their lessons, something strange happened. The children in the audience began to chant. They weren’t chanting “Zidane,” although people occasionally shouted for his autograph. The children chanted “Tomsan,” the nickname of a 52-year-old retired player from upstate New York who never won a Champions League title, a World Cup Golden Ball, or a FIFA World Player of the Year award: Tom Byer.

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