Get To Know English Premier League Man Of The Moment: Kaoru Mitoma
Kaoru Mitoma (, Mitoma Kaoru, born 20 May 1997) is a Japanese professional footballer who currently plays for Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion and the Japan national team.
Mitoma was born in Kanagawa and grew up in the Kawasaki area before joining the Frontale academy at the U10 level. When offered a promotion from the U-18s to the senior team, he chose the University of Tsukuba. This Japanese university football powerhouse had recently produced Frontale stalwarts such as Shogo Taniguchi and Shintaro Kurumaya.
Mitoma admitted that he felt unprepared to play professional football at the age of 18, citing the struggles of fellow Kawasaki academy products Ko Itakura and Koji Miyoshi to earn regular playing time with the senior squad. His university thesis was about dribbling.
Mitoma was chosen to represent Japan with the under-23 national team at the 2017 and 2019 Universiade tournaments, the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Toulon Tournament. While majoring in physical education and playing in the Kanto University Soccer League with Tsukuba, he was named to the all-league XI in his final three seasons.
Tsukuba also competed in the 2016 and 2017 Emperor’s Cup tournaments, reaching the round of 16 in the latter, defeating J.League clubs YSCC Yokohama, Vegalta Sendai (against whom Mitoma scored a brace), and Avispa Fukuoka along the way. Mitoma occasionally joined Frontale’s senior team for training sessions as a Special Designated Player while in college.
Mitoma agreed to a professional contract with the Kawasaki Frontale senior team beginning 2020 in July 2018. He made his official pro debut on the first matchday of the 2020 J1 League and quickly established himself after the league resumed following the COVID-19 outbreak, becoming the first rookie to reach double digits in first-division goals since Yoshinori Muto in 2008.
Mitoma signed a four-year contract with Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion on 10 August 2021, joining Union SG on loan for the first year. He made his Union SG debut on October 16, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-2 home victory over Seraing.
Mitoma was called up to Japan’s senior squad for the first time in November 2021 for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Oman, after being capped at the youth level. On November 16, he made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 away win over Oman.
Mitoma scored his first two international goals in a 2-0 World Cup qualification win over Australia on March 24, 2022. The winger scored three minutes after coming off the bench in the 86th minute. During extra time, he added another goal. This victory ensured Japan’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Mitoma’s double qualified him for his first “A” international call-up against Vietnam five days later.
Mitoma was selected on November 1 to represent Japan in the 26-man team for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. He contributed to Ao Tanaka’s winning goal in the last group match, which Japan won against Spain on December 1 and advanced to the round of 16. The goal was controversial since it was initially disallowed for the ball leaving the field of play, but VAR overturned the decision and awarded the goal because the ball’s curve was hanging over the line.