After Fagiano Okayama's massive home crowd saw their team held to a scoreless draw by J2 favourites Shimizu S-Pulse, Lionel Piguet caught up with the home team's no.8 - Australian midfielder Stefan Mauk (SM) - for a quick chat on behalf of JSoccer Magazine and (JS).

JS: First of all, let's ask about your story so far. This is now your second season in Japan, at Fagiano Okayama, so how do you feel about how you have adapted to Japanese football so far?

SM: Well, I think last season was quite tough, coming in during the season, and with Covid making it hard to even enter the country. This probably set me back, but this year I have managed a full pre-season, I know all the players better now, and I'm in the same city – no change – so more settled, and it has become a lot easier, but I certainly have more room to grow yet. I think even from last week to this week, I feel it's a lot better and hopefully we can keep building on this.

JS: This is your 10th season as a professional, but you're still only 27. How much more do you think you can progress.

SM: I think every year you hope to get better and there are always new things to learn. I think coming to a different country, you see a different style of football and meet new challenges so in the ideal world I would love to stay in Japan for four, five or six years, reaching J1 – the best league, obviously – so that's the aim.

JS: You were in a team that fought hard for promotion last season and we saw today a great fight against a strong team. What do you think are your chances for promotion or progress at Fagiano Okayama?

SM: As we saw today, S-Pulse came along, a very strong team with the biggest budget in the division, and I feel we could have won the game, so this shows our intent and we believe we can win the J2 league. We've shown today that we are capable, and we will improve. Probably with our ball possession we can improve in controlling games, but also this is not our exact style so just getting more comfortable with new players and taking our chances will see results.

JS: What do you feel are the main differences between J.League and A League?

SM: I think it's a lot quicker here and the players are probably technically better. It's still physical, but a different kind of physical. Getting used to the speed of the play and the technique side of things is taking me a little time, but now I'm quite comfortable and now the next thing is getting to know when the players are going to play the ball, when I'm going to get it back... this happens with time, and of course, not speaking the same language makes it harder too, but I'm getting there.

JS: How do you feel that the Australian football can improve in the future? Reaching World Cups is standard now, but what about the next step?

SM: I think that youth football is a key. When players get to this top level they need to be better. More youth development, more training at that level, and more games that matter. In Japan the young players play many more games than we do. We don't play enough games at the youth level, but even in the A League I feel we do not have enough games. More games are needed at all levels in Australian football.

JS: Thank you for your time.



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