On November 6th, last year's WE LEAGUE champion INAC Kobe Leonessa held a "WE ACTION Football Session at the UNDOKAI WORLD CUP" for the third WE ACTION DAY of the season – on the Awaji Island of Hyogo Prefecture.
The UNDOKAI WORLD CUP is the largest sports festival on the Awaji Island, where everyone from small children to adults can participate in about 20 different sports. This festival usually attracts a total of 60,000 people over the three days. INAC Kobe, the first ever champion of the women's professional football league, participated in this big event with the aim of "providing a place where everyone can enjoy sports equally, regardless of their age or gender.”
Yasuhiro Hato, former member of the Japan's national football team and a native of Awaji Island, along with 21 players took the stage and greeted the participants as part of the ceremony. Soon after, the football session kicked off for the participants who had registered in advance, with Chisato Minowa’s lead. The players and participants were first divided into two groups to begin the session.
Participants were first divided into four teams and began the session with a ball relay with their hands. Kindergarten and nursery school children as well as adults enjoyed the activity as they carried the ball around. The same teams then had drills where they dribble a total of 13 balls, four at a time. Followed by a short break, the group was divided into two where they played a mini football game. Adjustments were made during the game – where number of balls increased with time or players jumping in to support to making sure that everyone got a chance with the ball, which got the children excited and going.
At the end of the session, it was a game with all the participants playing against the players. After witnessing the professional football players adjust their techniques according to the opponents’ level of play and experiencing it firsthand, they finally concluded the session with a group photo.
Upon completing the football session, the players participated in the other competitions held at the UNDOKAI WORLD CUP. The two events: "Eye of the Storm" and "Three-legged race” group had advanced to the finals. However, during the "Eye of Storm," even though the team was leading at first, they accidentally knocked over a cone on the course and unfortunately got eliminated. Nevertheless, in the "Three-legged race," Reina Wakisaka and Maika Hamano teamed up to compete and were able to win the competition. They received “one year worth of Awaji beef” as a prize along with the other competition winners.
INAC Kobe Leonessa team had a PR booth stall, where they promoted their team and WE LEAGUE to the visitors by handing out giveaways.
Mio Kato, a 4th grader who participated in the football session said, "We started off with a simple ball relay using hands, which was a lot of fun even for the beginners. The players were very good at dribbling the ball and demonstrated other skills, which inspired me to become like them," as she smiled. And her younger brother, Kanshun, who plays football at his kindergarten added "It was a lot of fun. The players were all amazing," with sparkles in his eyes.
Megumi Takase of INAC Kobe Leonessa said, "The players in their teens took the lead in coming up with the program (where beginners can also participate). We have done these football sessions in the past, but usually, it is for a limited number of people in the community, for example kindergarten and nursery schools. This time it was great to do it in a place where many people – young and old, men and women, regardless of nationality or gender, participated. I think it was a valuable experience for the young athletes to have the opportunity to speak in front of so many people. Above all, us players had a lot of fun and I think we should have more opportunities like this” as she talked about the significance of being part of a huge festival like this.