Thursday, April 16, 2009

Naoki Imaya's Football Vision

In my last post, I railed bitterly against the tendency in modern football to treat young players as expendable commodities, to be bought in bulk by large clubs and dispensed with if they prove surplus to requirements.

Thankfully, not everybody is taking that approach. There's a great article on the FourFourTwo website highlighting the work of former New Zealand Knights player Naoki Imaya. Having played in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany, Imaya is a strong believer in the power of football in bridging cultural gaps and fostering understanding and cooperation between people of different backgrounds.

Back in Tokyo, Imaya has set up an English-language school that teaches football to Japanese juniors and adults. Through football, the students mix and interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

In the FourFourTwo interview, Imaya is clear about the objectives of his school: "Aiming to be a world class player would be on anybody's mind who have tried to pursue a career in this beautiful game, but I think it is more important to aim to be a first class human being."

Imaya's vision also involves a sharing of football knowledge between Japan and Australia. "I hope in the future I can help the youth from Australia and Japan in some kind of an exchange program where they could learn each others' football style and build a better relationship between the countries as well."

Maybe I shouldn't be too cynical about the modern game. Imaya's football school is an example of the fact that there are still people and organisations around that see football as more than just a business and young players as people rather than robots. Here's hoping that there are people in Australia that are willing to take a similar approach.

If you can read Japanese (I certainly can't), you can find more information about Naoki Imaya's school at

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