Takahiro Ogata is one-third of comedy trio “Panther” and a frequent guest on sports-related TV shows in Japan thanks to his high level of athleticism. He was born in Higashi Matsushima-City in 1977 and lives in Tokyo today. Takahiro attended Sendai Ikuei High School, where he wore that special No. 10 jersey for his famous and competitive football team. In 2000, he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Literature at Chuo University.

How and when did you become a fan of Borussia Dortmund?
I saw a TV news report that Shinji Kagawa had joined Borussia Dortmund. In 2010, he was a major figure in our J.League and on the verge of becoming a key player in the Japanese national team. I remember being surprised to hear that he was joining Borussia Dortmund. From then on, I started taking an interest in both Kagawa and his new team. His choosing the highly competitive environment of a team from one of Europe’s top leagues and rising to that challenge was exciting for us here in Japan – it inspired me to do my best as well.  

In July 2019, you were appointed as Borussia Dortmund’s Brand Ambassador for Japan. How did that come about?
I love football and had always told my management that I wanted a job that was football-related, but I never expected to be asked to be a brand ambassador. I was all the more excited that the offer came from Borussia Dortmund, a big European club I had a longstanding interest in and with which I felt a real connection. When I was a student, I visited Germany on a football tour. The local staff praised my playing and I have been fond of Germany ever since. So I didn’t hesitate to accept Borussia Dortmund’s offer and I’m now the club’s most enthusiastic fan by far.

What are your main tasks as Brand Ambassador?
My main task is to raise awareness of Borussia Dortmund and win new fans for the club in Japan. One of my best experiences so far as brand ambassador was visiting Dortmund in December 2019. I got to watch a match, meet the players and try out the Footbonaut in the German town of Brackel. I wrote a vast amount of content and blogged about my experiences during and after the visit.  

So you have already been to SIGNAL IDUNA PARK?
Yes! In December 2019, my long-held wish to attend a Borussia Dortmund game came true. I was really excited to watch the game against Fortuna Düsseldorf, which ended in a 5-0 win for Borussia. It was completely overwhelming! All the amazing supporters behind the goal and all those fan banners. I also liked the narrow corridor the players walked through to get to the pitch and the music playing as the players entered. Axel Witsel and Julian Brandt were breathtaking together, especially because they are midfielders and that was my position, too, during my student days. I have been a big fan of Axel and Julian ever since. And after the match, I was able to take a photo with each of the team’s players in turn, which was the most memorable thing of all! It was awesome to witness the passion of the fans. This is real football – I will never forget the excitement I felt that day. 

How do you keep up to date with Borussia Dortmund in Japan? Do you stay in touch with other Borussia Dortmund supporters?
I watch every game on Sky Perfect TV and check Borussia Dortmund’s social media (Twitter and LINE ) every day. I communicate with other fans through my blog entries, which I write after each game. And they love Borussia Dortmund as much as I do because the team is the real deal, with a passionate vision and fired-up supporters. 
Interview: Uwe Schedlbauer

In this section, our main sponsor Evonik, who supports us at all of our international games, lets soccer fans who feel close to Borussia Dortmund but live nowhere near SIGNAL IDUNA PARK have their say.

For over 50 years, Evonik has had a strong presence in Japan – a country which is not only one of the world’s most advanced economies but also a technology pioneer. Six of the eight Evonik sites in the Land of the Rising Sun have production facilities; four sites conduct research and development. The product range spans virtually the entire portfolio of the specialty chemicals company, with emphasis on silicas and high-performance plastics. In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2011, it became evident how close the relationship between the Essen-based company and its host country had become. Together with Borussia Dortmund, Evonik organized a benefit match to help the victims. In addition, Borussia Dortmund’s main sponsor saw to the rebuilding of a day care center, with many Evonik employees personally lending a hand on site.