Hard work begins to practise lessons learnt

A Matsumoto Yamaga coach debriefing the Singapore U-15 boys (from left) Elijah Lim, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah, Ashley Yong and Christian Chiang after a practice game. The FAS hopes the boys, who have ended their week-long stint in Matsumoto, can bri
A Matsumoto Yamaga coach debriefing the Singapore U-15 boys (from left) Elijah Lim, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah, Ashley Yong and Christian Chiang after a practice game. The FAS hopes the boys, who have ended their week-long stint in Matsumoto, can bring back with them the best practices they have picked up. PHOTO: EPSON SINGAPORE

For the past week, after every training session, it was common to hear the Matsumoto Yamaga coaches saying "Otsukaresama deshita" to the six Singapore Under-15 and U-14 players, who are here on a training attachment.

Elijah Lim, Muhammad Nur Adam Abdullah, Ashley Yong, Christian Chiang, Marc Ryan Tan and Vasileios Chua learnt that the phrase means "Thank you for your hard work" or "You've worked hard".

It is perhaps appropriate for the boys who have perspired and got drenched in the rain, suffered leg cramps and body aches, but also gained valuable football lessons.

The training attachment has been made possible by Epson's three-year partnership with the Football Association of Singapore. The Japanese electronics company is also the shirt sponsor of Yamaga.

When asked what they had learnt during the week-long trip to Matsumoto, Marc, 14, said: "The Japanese players are much quicker when it comes to pace, and everyone seems to want to prove their worth to the coaches. They never rest during training."

Adam, 15, added: "There are indeed very fast transitions in their play, whether it is from defence to attack or vice versa, and you don't even have time to think when you play against them."

The Japanese fast-paced style of play was an eye-opener. As Ashley, 15, added, the speed at which Yamaga train is unlike anything he has experienced back home.

While training is hard graft, the work ethic of the Yamaga players has rubbed off on the Singaporean boys.

Vasileios, 14, said: "The Japanese players give 100 per cent commitment to their training. They come to training with only a single goal in mind - to improve."

Elijah, 15, added: "They turn up 15 minutes before the start of training to do their own warm-up exercises, so that when training begins, they are all ready to go. In Singapore, we arrive for training only five minutes before or on the dot.

"That is definitely something we can learn from."

Christian, 15, also pointed out that the Japanese players took the initiative to run on their own to improve their stamina. At times, they ran close to seven laps around the field before training began.

In the dormitory where the boys stayed with the club's 19 other youth players, friendships were forged. There were no concerns of a language barrier or reservations the Singapore boys would not be treated as one of them.

Today, the boys will be invited to watch Yamaga's first team host Montedio Yamagata in a J2 match at the Alwin Stadium.

But for now, the boys can be proud that they have gained valuable insight as well as good habits from a tough training trip. At the end of it all, they will be happy to bring home the lessons they have learnt and say to one another, "Otsukaresama deshita".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Hard work begins to practise lessons learnt'. Print Edition | Subscribe