On April 29, Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza held a football class for girls in elementary school of Inagi City – where the team's training base is located. The girls were able to experience real-life professional football techniques.
The atmosphere was a bit tense at the ground of Komazawa Women's University – which is located in the team’s hometown, Inagi City. The 52 participants who belong to the local elementary schools or football academy, gathered for a rare opportunity to receive direct coaching from WE LEAGUE players. Many participants arrived at the field before the meeting time and began warming up by juggling the ball and doing other drills. They were all eagerly waiting for the arrival of the players.
At the event, Captain and Defender Risa Shimizu first greeted the participants, saying, "I hope you will fully enjoy today and experience what it is like to be a Beleza player.” They then were divided into four groups by grade and goalkeeper (GK) as they immediately kicked off the football class. The program was all designed and planned by the players themselves.
The younger group of first and second graders was led by Tomoko Muramatsu, a Defender graduated from Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Menina, which is the youth academy of the club, who also has experience representing Japan. In a drill where you aim for the cone while dribbling, the player who was assigned as the coach, motivated the children by letting them know they did well. The children responded with all smiles.
The third and fourth grade group took on a more practical challenge. In the drill where they had to pass the ball 10 times, the children had trouble keeping the ball as the defenders intervened. So, Defender, Azusa Iwashimizu, who was also a member of the 2011 FIFA Women‘ｓ World Cup winning team, asked, "What were you trying to do just now?” as she stopped the ongoing play. She gave them a little time to think and gave them advice on how to improve, such as using the one touch pass. Following that, the children's movements drastically improved as they cleared the drill on their third try.
The older group of 5th and 6th graders took it to another level. During the square pass drill using cones, the children inclined to look down because they were too focused on the ball. So Midfielder Narumi Miura led by example, saying "When you make a pass, you have to look towards the direction of your pass.”
The higher-grade group also played a match against the players. The children's team consisted of eight players, while the players' team consisted of just four players. Early in the game, Momoka Kinoshita, a Midfielder who also participated in the Tokyo Olympics, dribbled through the pitch, and made a chip pass to Defender, Yukina Sakabe. Sakabe received the ball with one touch and scored a goal. While the WE LEAGUERs overpowered, everyone kept going at it refusing to give up.
All the Goalkeepers of Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza participated in the goalkeeping group. Ayano Kurosawa taught the players to keep their shoulders soft and “to hold the ball firmly in front of their bodies using not only their hands, but also their arms when they catch the ball.” In the practice of saving, the players first demonstrated the techniques. The girls looked inspired by the astounding demonstration. They stood in front of the goal looking all serious as they practiced catching the ball repeatedly.
During the interaction session of each group, many questions were raised. When a participant asked, "How can I get better?" Shimizu answered, "When I was little, I spent a lot of time with the ball. There are difficult times in training, but it is important to keep going" as she argued the importance of continuous training and strong will.
A sixth grader who participated with her sister, shared her dream of “becoming an overseas player in the future,” while her younger sister in the fourth grade was impressed by the "quick one-two” of the real professional skills of the players.
Goalkeeper Nina Noda, who participated in WE ACTION DAY for the first time, said she herself had an experience of interacting with male professional players when she was younger. Looking back on those memories, she said, "I would be happy if each person here become interested and fall in love with women's football. I think these experiences create a ripple effect.” And Defender Rumi Utsugi followed, "I would like to make women's football even more wonderful in the next five, ten years.”
Komazawa Women's University, who provided the venue for the event, and Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza have had a corporate partnership agreement since 2010 for the purpose of promoting sports and creating educational opportunities in the city of Inagi. President Yoshinori Ando, who visited the event, said "I hope that these encounters with top athletes will help children also make their world stage in the future.” They also mentioned that they plan to continue working with the club to promote women's football in the future.