Konnichiwa from the land of the rising sun! Two days ago I was trying to buy a fork in the local supermarket here (because I'm useless with chop sticks!) when I met the incredible Genna Iyama. She works at the store and was asked to help me because she speaks English. One day later we had a game in the local community thanks to her energy and enthusiasm for what I am doing.
Through Genna, I met the great staff of Izumisano Cross Cultural Association (ICA) and Hamano and Daisaku from Izumisano City Youth Service. The ICA is a brilliant organisation that provides a place "where people from around the world gather and interact without any boundaries in order to learn something new from each other". The Youth Service provides a safe space for young people to gather in the evenings, at weekends and in the holidays to learn new skills and let off steam.
After much negotiation, we managed to get 8 players to have a kick-a-bout in the nearby park. Hamano, Daisaku, staff from the ICA, staff from a nearby office, Genna and her manager from her her second job, restaurant owner "Papa', joined us for the game. It was clear form the start that most of the players hadn't played football before! After a couple of short demonstrations of how to work together as a team and pass the ball around, both teams threw themselves into the game.
There was much laughter and hilarity throughout! Hamano turned in a great performance, scoring two great goals bursting from midfield. Genna showed great pace and determination out on the right wing and "Papa" put in some crunching tackles! Daisaku was solid in the nets. For their first time playing, both teams did well and by the end of the game their passing and movement was improving. The important thing was everyone had a great time. The score in the end was 3-1 to Hamano's team but the real winner was the community spirit on display today.
The ICA and Youth Service here are both fantastic examples of not for profit organisations working to unify people and support people to realise their potential. It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to meet everyone today. Thank you all for your time and special thanks to the amazing Genna for being the interpreter and ball of energy that made the game happen in the first place. Sayonara !