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May 1997

Future Olympic Stars Compete in Girls' Soccer Championships

Women's soccer became an official Olympic sport at the Atlanta Games. To foster female soccer stars in Japan, the first national tournament for young female soccer players was held in March in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Nine teams from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south competed in the championships. The tournament was for girls aged 11 to 15.

Although most players on the teams were middle-school students, there were several sixth graders as well: two on the Tohoku team and another two on the Hiroshima team. And they played just as well as those who were older than them.

Organizers of the tournament said that they hope the event will encourage more girls to start and continue playing soccer.

As of March 1997 there were 23,796 female soccer players and 1,179 women's teams registered with the Japan Football Association. Besides the tournament for 11 to 15 year olds, national contests include those for elementary school, high school, and college students, and adult amateurs.

Photo: The players hope to show their skills in the Olympics one day. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)