Football: Youngsters get taste of Japan game

(From left) Teenagers Elijah Lim, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah, Marc Ryan Tan, Vasileios Chua, Ashley Yong and Christian Chiang are in Japan on a week-long training attachment. It is the second stint for Elijah and Adam.
(From left) Teenagers Elijah Lim, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah, Marc Ryan Tan, Vasileios Chua, Ashley Yong and Christian Chiang are in Japan on a week-long training attachment. It is the second stint for Elijah and Adam. PHOTO: EPSON SINGAPORE

When he stood on a training pitch in Karigane, Matsumoto last year, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah was a puzzled boy. He and his fellow trainees were being instructed in basic football drills.

What was the point of him travelling all the way to Japan, just to take part in basic drills, he wondered.

Then it hit him: The Japanese focus on getting young players to master the basics of the game - passing, tackling, crossing and shooting. And only then do they move on to more advanced elements like how to incorporate those skills in a match.

That, said Adam, was what he came away with from his seven-day training trip to Matsumoto last year. It is in stark contrast to what he has experienced back home, where coaches throw players into a match without devoting a lot of time to the basic techniques each player needs to work on.

This week, the 15-year-old is back in Japan, and hoping to improve his skills even further. He is joined by five other Singaporeans, including fellow returnee Elijah Lim, also 15.

For Elijah, what struck him the most last year was the Japanese players' initiative - moving the goal posts before each training session and preparing the balls - all without having to be instructed by their coaches. He also noted that the transition of the Japanese players from defence to attack was far smoother than what he was used to and that they enjoyed better communication on the pitch.

The six national Under-15 and Under-14 boys were officially unveiled at a press conference yesterday.

Marc Ryan Tan, Vasileios Chua, Ashley Yong, Christian Chiang, Adam and Elijah - are here on a week-long overseas training attachment.

Their trip has been made possible because of Epson's three-year partnership deal with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). Epson is also the shirt sponsor of Yamaga, who play in the J2 League, the second tier of Japanese football.

The aim of the exchange is to increase overseas development opportunities for Singapore's youth footballers.

Takeshi Yamazaki, director of Yamaga's youth academy, said: "The boys will be coached by our youth academy coaches throughout their stay here and the training sessions will be more intense compared to last year. They will also have individual training sessions."

He added that he hopes the attachment will be the start of further good relations between the FAS and Yamaga and help deepen ties between Japan and Singapore through sport.

Ashley, 15, a central midfielder, can barely wait to start the training sessions. He said: "I was delighted when I got picked. It feels great so far and I'm enjoying the food and the weather.

"I can't wait to be on the pitch to learn new things like how the Japanese employ training methods that are suited to every individual's physique and strength. Also, their level of intensity in training is much higher compared to Singapore."

Elijah, also a central midfielder, said he is glad to be back in Matsumoto and he is happy to share his experience with his team-mates.

This time, the boys will take part in more training sessions - five compared to three last year. They will also play three full matches with their Japanese counterparts.

Off the pitch, they will stay in the Yamaga dormitory, along with the club's 19 boys.

They will also observe the Yamaga first team's training session and also official matches of both the club's youth and first teams in the 20,000-seat Alwin Stadium.

Yamaga's first team (fifth in J2), who lost 1-2 to league leaders Fagiano Okayama in their previous match, host Montedio Yamagata on Sunday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline 'Youngsters get taste of Japan game'. Print Edition | Subscribe