On 22 June a special match took place at J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture, as a Tohoku Selection took on an Asian Eleven in the JapaFunCup.
This was the latest activity to take place as part of efforts by the Japan Foundation Asia Center (JFAC) , JFA(Japan Football Association), and J.LEAGUE to promote international football exchange programmes involving Southeast Asian nations, which have been ongoing since 2014.
Co-hosted by JFAC and JFA and supported by J.LEAGUE, the match saw an Asian Eleven comprised of Under-18 players from 11 Southeast Asian nations invited to the national training centre to take on their Under-18 peers from the Tohoku region.
After a closely contested 90 minutes finished all square at 0-0 a penalty shoot-out was required to separate the sides, with the Asian Eleven ultimately emerging as 5-4 victors.
“I am sure that everyone watching this match was able to see the talent of the ASEAN players,” Asian Eleven coach Takuma Koga, a former J.LEAGUE player with Jubilo Iwata, Shimizu S-Pulse, and Cerezo Osaka who has since gained experience coaching young players in the likes of Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Myanmar, said.
“I personally believe that our midfielders in particular have the potential to play for J.LEAGUE teams in the near future. Although our time spent together was limited, I feel we became united as a team.”
Hiroshi Teguramori, coach of the Under-18 Tohoku Selection, also felt the event was a huge success.
“We hope to inspire and motivate each other to capitalise upon our potential,” he said.
“The Asian Eleven players showed great composure on the ball and were highly skilled. We thought agility and speed were our strong points, but the opposing players shared the same qualities so the Tohoku players gained wonderful experience from this match.”