Last week, three young Japanese football players finally clinched their tickets to Barcelona, where they will be participating in the global final of "The Chance", Nike’s global talent search program. The Japan final for "The Chance" took place in Saitama Stadium 2002, world class stadium and dream venue for aspiring football players.
The road to Barcelona was not an easy one, as those 3 finalists were chosen from a total of 7,000 young athletes from all around the country. The selection process mixed an extensive grass root level search, with Nike scouts visiting schools and club teams across the nation, local contests held in four different regions Tohoku (Miyagi), Kanto (Kanagawa), Kansai (Osaka) & Kyushu (Fukuoka), as well as a surprise scouting by Serie A star player Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan). The selection process was supervised by football manager Yahiro Kazama, former professional player and Japan national team member Akira Narahashi, and J-League’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima scouting manager Osamu Adachi.
After a rigorous selection process, 47 players were chosen out of the initial 7,000 candidates, and were invited to the Japan Final taking place over two days:
On day 1, Yahiro Kazama selected 26 players through SPARQ physical tests, position based exercises and short games.
On day 2, three Japan finalists were selected after a GPS enabled 7x 7 players mini-game and a final 90 minute game using the full main pitch of Saitama Stadium 2002.
The selected three finalists are:
・Ryosuke Kinoshita, FW (Takigawa Daini High School)
・Ukyo Tomisawa, DF (Touin Gakuen High School)
・Yuki Yamanouchi, MF （Kagoshima Jitsugyo High School）
Those 3 Japanese players will join other 100 footballers from around the world aspiring to become the 16 global finalists in Barcelona, Spain from Aug 19 (Sun) thru 26 (Sun).The global best 16 footballers will then have a chance to further pursue their dreams of becoming professional players by being part of a special scouting tour involving some of the world's biggest clubs, Manchester United and Juventus.
■ Comments by the players:
“I was so happy. Being a striker, scoring goals was the most important thing for me. I was able to do well. Now that I can participate in the global final, I’d like to be one of the final 16.”
“ I’m very happy. I believe my overall performance combined with speed was recognized. I’d like to practice much more to get better so I can further elevate myself.”
“My heart was pounding (as I was the last one to be called for). I am very happy. My leg cramped up but I was able to play until the end. I’d definitely like to be one of the 16 global finalists.
■ Comment by Yahiro Kazama:
“The players' level was higher than that of the prior year. People often say that Japanese players are rather quiet, which was not true for these kids. They wanted to grab the chance by themselves and I could feel their passion, hunger and impatience. The 3 individuals who were selected all have strong physical abilities with which they went into the game. I’ d like to see them making their dream come true through exploiting this opportunity.”