Omiya Ardija Ventus held a "VENTUS ACTION WEEK" from May 11 under the theme of "Sign Language.” In addition to visiting special-needs schools and sign language classes, a football class was held on the last day with participants communicating in sign language. About 40 women – ranging from elementary school students to adults, participated.
Omiya Ardija Ventus chose "sign language" as its theme because of the activities of Omiya Ardija, the men’s team of the club in the J2 league. Omiya has been hosting "Support your club with Sign Language Day" since 2006, for people with and without disabilities to enjoy football together. So the Omiya Ardija Ventus players also voiced their desire to work through sign language in order to "promote an inclusive society and where individuals can shine," which led to this activity.
On the 11th, which was the first day of the “VENTUS ACTION WEEK”, Defender and the captain of the team, Saori Ariyoshi, and Defender Yuki Sakai, visited Saitama Prefectural Special Support School for the Deaf. They learned sign language from the students and interacted with them through small-sided football games and stretching.
On the same day, an active PR promotion to the media also took place. Goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh and Midfielder Ayu Nakada and others visited the Saitama Prefectural Government and Saitama City Hall, to share the contents and vision on the series of events at the respective press clubs.
Furthermore, on the 12th, an instructor from the Saitama Association of the Deaf was invited to do a sign language workshop at the clubhouse. 10 participants, including Ruka Norimatsu, a Defender on the Japan national team, participated. They learned how to greet and sign the names of the players while they deepened their understanding of sign language.
On the 15th, the final day – a "football class using sign language" was held. The Goalkeeper, Arisa Mochizuki lead the event. The event was entirely planned and implemented by the players themselves, which the registration and welcoming of participants was also done by the players. The participants got excited as they were greeted by the players in person.
Women of all ages, from elementary school students to adults, gathered for the football class. The participants were divided into three groups of elementary school students by grade and one group of junior high school students and above. The players immediately used sign language in their greetings and self-introductions.
In the group of lower grade elementary school students, Ariyoshi asked "who knows sign language?", and more than half of them raised their hands enthusiastically. One girl said she had learned sign language at school and performed "Arigato (Thank you)” as everyone responded by imitating her.
In the group of junior high school students and above, Norimatsu taught signs that could be used for cheering. In addition to "ganbare" and "nice," she introduced "I love you" in reference to J2 Omiya's fight song "Aishiteruze (I love you) We are ORANGE.” Everyone happily practiced it – spreading their arms and raising the thumb, index finger, and pinky finger.
Naturally, the practical part, the football game was also filled with enthusiasm. A group of junior high school students were absorbed in a game of tail-tag, in which Rana Okuma, a Forward player was surrounded by seven participants, but managed to somehow get away only to have her tail snatched just before the game ended. Stambaugh was thrilled to see the children kicking the ball energetically and practicing their shots. She signed "I love you,” as she continued to watch over them.
The upper grade group challenged themselves with a higher-level activity. Mochizuki advised a participant who was struggling to chip pass in pairs suggesting to "kick the ball with the inside of your foot, with your toes straight out.” And immediately after that, the ball went straight to the opponent. The participant could not hold back as they smiled with happiness.
At the end, the players and participants played a game against each other. The game got heated from the very beginning as the players showed their skillsets as they gave their all. After the program, everyone gathered for a picture, signing "I love you.” The sign language theme combined with football made the event and interaction deeper.
Mochizuki said, "Since the theme was sign language, the players were able to learn sign language. I am glad that Omiya Ardija Ventus hosted a football class with sign language and made everyone smile.” Additionally, Aya Samejima, a Defender and member of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup winning team, reflected on how the players voluntarily got involved in the planning and operation of WE ACTION DAY and said, "I would like to continue doing more activities that are rooted in the community and to address social issues on a regular basis.”