Calgary born Canadian International Issey Nakajima-Farran is a player who highlights the truly global industry that is professional soccer. At 27 years old he has played professionally in Japan, Singapore and Denmark and recently made his debut with Australian powerhouse the Brisbane Roar. At the International level, Issey has been capped 24 times and has competed all over the world with Canada in a national team career in which he has represented his country in three CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments and played in four FIFA World Cup qualification matches.
A versatile and attack-minded player on the pitch, Issey is also something of a renaissance man off of it. As a talented and renowned artist, Nakajima-Farran is also renowned as a painter with a modern style that reflects his life as a professional footballer. For more information on Issey, check out his website at isseyfarran.com.
RedNation Online discusses his decision move to Australia and sign with the Brisbane Roar, his role with the Roar and experiences thus far competing in the A-League with the top team down under, whether or not playing in Australia will hinder his prospects of playing for the Canadian National Team and the differences between playing football in Europe and in Australia.
RedNation Online: You recently signed with the Brisbane Roar and are now playing in the A-League. How are things going and are you enjoying playing soccer in Australia?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: Things are going well here in Brisbane, Australia. I’m enjoying the warm weather and the crazy wild life that surrounds my lifestyle here. Attendance is pretty good and the chants that the crowds here have are much like you see and hear in Britain, so I’m enjoying the banter that the crowds here have. I’m also happy with little things like being able to understand the Coach as he talks to the team or chatting with guys in the changing rooms, as English is the main language. It’s little things like that I didn’t have as a foreigner playing for the past six years in Denmark. So far I’m enjoying the change. Also Brisbane plays a great style of football where everything is forcefully played on the ground, much like a lot of European clubs. In my experience, FC Nordsjælland, who were known to play attractive football, is much like the style we play here, so I’m enjoying playing the system that we play.
RedNation Online: You had spent the majority of your professional playing career in Denmark. What made you make the move to Australia?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: In Denmark I enjoyed my football with three different clubs there and I had great experiences with the UEFA Cup, Championships and winning promotions. The Australian Champions were keen on me to fit in with their style and with them playing in the Asian Champions League, I thought why not. Plus, I figured the weather here would be fantastic, which it is.
RedNation Online: One of the main things that many people often point out about Australia is how its location makes travel to and from it difficult. Will playing in Australia in any way inhibit your ability to play for the Canadian Men's National Team?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: If I’m doing well here as an attacking winger in 4-3-3 system, and if Canada sees my attributes can help the squad, then I hope the distance or the travel wont affect my call up. I feel I’ve grown a lot as a player and it’s always an honour to play for Canada. I chose Canada over my three other countries and I’m proud to play for Canada, as my family is based there, so I do hope I get the chance to play for the Canadian National Team again. Plus, playing for Canada is the only way for my family to see me playing football, so it’s nice when you have your family supporting your games, as that’s one thing that’s always been something of a difficulty for me. When you have your family and close friends in the stands, playing football is a whole other thing. I do hope to get back on the Canadian team.
RedNation Online: Do you think your game translates well to the style of play in Australia?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: Yes. With this team the style requires me to play a 4-3-3 role playing on either the left or right. A lot of diagonal runs for me to penetrate and with many one, two link up plays. The system that we play gives me a lot of options in the attacking third, so I’m really enjoying it.
RedNation Online: How does the style of soccer in Australia compare to Europe?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: This style is what I’ve been used to with the teams I played with previously, so it’s not a huge change. Apparently, we are the only Australian team that play like this, so the league makes us look good and we are focused on continuing our winning streak of 32 unbeaten games. But really this team plays great football and it is a very hard working team.
RedNation Online: You are on a one year contract with Brisbane. Have you given any thoughts as to what will be next for you?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: A one year contract is perfect for me. It gives me a chance to experience this league. But like I said, the Brisbane style of play is fantastic and playing for the best team in the country is a great experience. You never know what’s down the road, but I’m really enjoying my time here.
RedNation Online: With three Canadian teams in the MLS in 2012, have you given much thought to possibly playing in the MLS?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: Vancouver and Calgary have been my home with my family living there, so MLS could be a possibility for me if there is some interest. Asian Champions league starts next year so I have to admit I’m looking forward to that.
RedNation Online: How does the approach of Brisbane Head Coach Ange Postecoglou compare to that of Canadian National Team Head Coach Stephen Hart?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: I think the two coaches are very different. And club level is very different from national teams, as at the club level you get to spend every day on the training pitch. So if the system can be trained and perfected every day and week, I think you get a different result, as guys are more used to each others playing styles, etc. When the national teams get together and only have a day or two to gel together, I think the coaching schemes take a different approach. So from my standpoint, I highly respect both coaches, but they are not easily compared.
RedNation Online: I believe you are the lone Canadian playing in the A-League. How have you been accepted by your Australian teammates and the organization in general?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: The Aussies are all great people. So they have been really nice to me. I think it’s just their nature to be so kind and funny, so it’s been an easy transition. And I’m enjoying the English speaking changing room as I said previously.
RedNation Online: Australia has qualified for the last few World Cups and is a country that is often compared to Canada in terms of its size, population and wealth. I know you have only recently arrived Down Under, but I'm wondering if you might have some thoughts as to why Australia has been successful at the International level?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: I think in terms of the previous Canadian campaigns, we were really unfortunate. I feel we have the quality, but sometimes you are just unlucky and that’s part of the game.
RedNation Online: Brisbane currently sit top of the table after several matches. What are the reasons the team is off to another strong start?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: The system that we play - with the rotations of players on the pitch that create a lot of possibilities - has been very important. A main key is the fitness level of the guys and the hard working high pressure which puts us at the top I think. Obviously the coaching staff have done a great job, as the team has totally changed within the last two years. The challenge is too keep striving and make a mark in the Asian Champions League, which will be a big challenge against the best teams, especially when playing in Japan.
RedNation Online: In addition to being a footballer, you are also known for being an accomplished painter. Denmark has a very strong art and design community. How does Brisbane compare and are you still finding time to paint?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: There has been a lot of interest on my art here too, which has been nice. But with amazing beaches 40 minutes away, it is hard to stay in and get painting. There are really beautiful beaches and I have seen whales and dolphins right off the shore, which to me is crazy, to see such nature lurking around. I have even seen sharks, but I haven't come across any yet, which is a good sign. But there are a few painting requests and my new apartment is empty, so I should get painting soon.
RedNation Online: The stadiums in the major Australian cities look fantastic from afar. How do the facilities in Australia stack up compared to those in Europe?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: Suncorp Stadium is amazing. In the last part of the last season the stadium was always a sell out crowd of 53,000 or something. At the moment, it’s struggling to get up to 20,000 but still the home stadium is very beautiful. I’ve only seen a few other stadiums so far and they are pretty big as well with good crowds too. The facilities are very good and are very professional. I actually think the facilities are a lot better than what was available with the three clubs that I was at in Denmark, with a lot more care in the player’s needs regarding treatment and conditioning.
RedNation Online: As mentioned already, it's still early days for you in Australia, but I'm wondering if you would recommend playing in the A-League to other Canadian players who are looking for exposure and a high level of competition?
Issey Nakajima-Farran: The league is apparently getting better and better. I think the A-League is pretty good and has good attendance and media coverage. Also, if you can be a part of the Asian Champions League, then I think it’s a good step for any footballer wanting to experience and grow as a player. Asian football is very fast and technical, so I think the level is at a very high standard. If that wasn’t the case, the attendance would be low due to it not being entertaining football.