Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek was given an early reminder of the importance of learning Japanese in his J-League debut on Saturday.
Degenek played 90 minutes in Yokohama F. Marinos' dramatic 3-2 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds in the opening round of the 2017 J-League season.
The centre-back joined Marinos in January, ending a five-year stint in Germany where he most recently played for 1860 Munich in the 2. Bundesliga.
While Marinos prevailed in a topsy-turvy contest with Urawa thanks to Naoki Maeda's goal in second-half stoppage time, Degenek wasn't particularly happy with his own performance and took full responsibility for the second goal conceded by his team.
The 22-year-old allowed Urawa striker Rafael Silva to get in behind him and head past goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura and admitted afterwards that he hadn't understood his team-mate's instructions.
It was a stark reminder of the communication barrier Degenek must overcome to thrive in Japan.
"It's obvious. I come here, I speak English, most of the players don't speak such good English and I need to learn Japanese," the Australian told reporters.
"If I learn Japanese then these things don't happen."
Degenek added: "It was my mistake. Yeah, it's a bit difficult with the language and I don't know what Hiro [Iikura] said but it was my mistake.
"I should look where the player is, but I will look at the game and analyse the game and look to go forward."
Silva's header was the Brazilian's second goal in as many minutes as Urawa took the lead away from home.
But Marinos hit back late in the match with Hugo Vieira equalising in the 85th minute before Maeda secured victory in the 92nd.
Degenek insisted he will get better as the J-League campaign progresses and explained he has already begun to learn some basic football parlance in Japanese.
"I've just learnt the basics," he said.
"Like 'right', 'left', 'behind you', 'danger', 'time' and just basic things I need for football but obviously in a game it's a lot faster and you need to be able to communicate.
"I know three languages and now I still need to think of the Japanese. It's the fourth language.
"Sometimes I say things in German or English on the field and I'm like 'nobody understands you, who are you talking to?'"
Degenek's next opportunity to prove himself in the J-League will come on Saturday when Marinos host Consadole Sapporo.
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