2022-23 Yogibo WE LEAGUE Week 13, INAC Kobe Leonessa performed two initiatives on WE ACTION DAY. On March 31st, at the "Rokko Island Cleanup Operation," Asahi Kasei Home Products' original SDGs game "Magical Ziplock® Search with the tongs!" GOMIs” was used to clean up and collect garbage while also having fun. The Future WE LEAGUERS Football Session & Food Education Seminar on April 2, was held to address the gender issues raised at the WE ACTION MEETING, such as "the lack of opportunities for girls to continue playing soccer," as well as “issues of girls dropping out in their teens” by hosting a football session for experienced female players between the fourth grade and third year of junior high.
About 60 people participated in the “Gather! Future WE LEAGUERS Football Session & Food Education Seminar” held at Noevir Stadium Kobe, where INAC Kobe Leonessa hosts its home games. The girls stepped onto the spacious and beautiful grass pitch as their eyes sparked. The program started as they were divided into two groups, elementary school students and junior high school students. Maya Yamamoto gave the opening remarks "Let's get active and have fun together today!"
In the football session, techniques that will be useful in actual matches were taught one after another. The techniques were taught carefully from the basics such as passing, trapping, dribbling, to a one-on-one. Manager Park Kang-jo used a microphone to explain in an easy-to-understand manner with some added humor. “When you have the ball, there are only three movements in football. Stop, kick, and carry the ball.” As he shared on how important the basic skills are for professional players, based on his own experience playing in the J. League.
During the training, INAC Kobe Leonessa players also taught generously. As for dribbling, Mayo Doko says, "I'm always dribbling while keeping the ball in a position where I can kick. I keep my head up and look at the furthest point as I advance." As she shared her own tips when she plays. The participants nodded as they looked on with their serious faces.
Next, the participants and INAC Kobe Leonessa players formed teams and enjoyed a real-life match. Elementary school students competed in a round-robin format with 5 teams on a half court, and junior high school students played a tournament format with 4 teams on a full court. Playing on the same pitch as the players they admire, they were able to experience what it is like to play as a professional player.
Misao Hiratani, a third-year junior high school student said, "It was fun to play at a stadium where the professional players play. The INAC players are very good – I want to work hard and become like them. During the game, I was able to see Riko Tsutsui defend using her body, which was very helpful. I usually play center back or defensive midfielder, so I would like to use this knowledge from now on to keep the right distance from my opponent.”
Additionally, elementary school students learned about nutrition together with their parents and players. A local food manufacturer, Fujicco Co., Ltd., explained what to eat before and after practice as well as when to eat. "Eating carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes to an hour after practice will help you recover well," and "and in addition to eating, it's important to get plenty of sleep to build a strong body," as they shared information that is important for junior athletes. The event ended with a taste testing of a special rice ball made by blending white rice with soybean rice, which is an easy way to get protein, along with a Q&A.
Hinata Ide said, “Hearing the story with the elementary school students made me re-realize the importance of food education. I value nutrition just as much as training, so it was great to also receive new information. It was great to have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge to the junior athletes in their growing period about nutrition and products that even children who don't like soy can eat.”
Participant Nanoha Takimoto, a 6th grade elementary school student said, "I learned a lot about nutrition because I have never studied it before. Today, I was happy to be able to hang out with Megumi Takase and Yui Narumiya, who I admire. My dream for the future is to represent Japan, so I want to do my best to become as good as the INAC players.”
Kobe City has long been an area where women's football has flourished. In 1966, Japan's first women's football team was born at an elementary school in Kobe City. It was also in Kobe that the first national high school and university tournaments were held. The fact that many female players come to the games of the inaugural WE LEAGUE champions – INAC Kobe Leonessa, may be due to its history.
Miki Ito, who had a lot of conversations with the participants said, "I was happy because everyone was having fun and being proactive. I was watching while thinking that I wanted this kind of event to be held when I was in elementary school as well. I think it's a great opportunity to be able to play together like this in an environment unique to Kobe, where there are both male and female professional football teams. I hope everyone makes use of this event today playing on the natural turf of a large stadium and become WE LEAGUERS in the future,” as she envisioned the future.
On this WE ACTION DAY, the INAC Kobe Leonessa players, coaches, and managers put their best foot forward to convey the importance of football skills to the participants, making it a memorable day for all. Envisioning a future where the girls who learned directly from the players they look up to, return to their hometown as WE LEAGUERS.