Esperanza was invited to take part in a soccer camp and invitational competition in Imabari at the end of August in Shikoku, by FC Imabari owner Takeshi Okada, the former Japan National Team manager.
As the only disability team in the competition amongst the top U-12 teams in the country, it was a great opportunity for our kids to show their abilities and to witness first hand the speed and skill of Japanese future footballers.
All the games were played in sweltering heat, but the kids (all ten of them plus some older members of Esperanza), battled the conditions bravely, displaying some real samurai spirit! For quite a few participants, it was their first time away from home for an extended period of time, but everybody seemed to enjoy the occasion and understood the responsibility that came with freedom.
On the second evening of the camp, there was a fun football related English lesson, where kids could learn football terminology and impersonate their favorite football players in a fun quiz! Next day we played one game where the instructions by coaches were all in English, putting the theoretical knowledge into practice. Contrary to expectations it was the best result of the tournament, which may show that coaches are overrated after all!
Esperanza’s motto for the tournament, as stated by the head coach, Jin Yukio, was to set an example, where organisers and other players could say: “It was nice to have them in the tournament”. Going by the feedback from spectators, opposition players and FC Imabari staff, it seemed like the goal set by the head coach was achieved with flying colours. Esperanza was invited back for next year’s tournament, to help advance understanding of impairment in Japanese society and the footballing community.
Last but not least, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Mitsubishi Corporation who very kindly agreed to sponsor the trip and camp costs for the Esperanza children. Three representatives of Mitsubishi came to see the tournament in person and could witness how much their support meant for us.