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May 1999

Japanese and Korean Kids Compete in Soccer Tourney

In an effort to promote friendship among young soccer players in Japan and South Korea prior to the 2002 World Cup, which the two countries will be cohosting, a junior soccer meet was held in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea, on March 27 and 28.

Two Japanese teams took part: Kamo FC from Kyoto Prefecture and Sapporo Junior FC from Hokkaido Prefecture. They were selected after their second- and third-place finishes in a national junior soccer meet in the city of Shimizu, Japan, in August 1998.

Each team played against three South Korean schools: Kanso Elementary School and Dong Myong Elementary School in Seoul and Song-ho Elementary School in Ansan. The team with the best record from each country then played each other in the final match.

The Japanese teams were overwhelmed by the speed and skills of the South Korean players, though, and could not muster a single win. Kamo FC, which managed to draw one of the three games, played against Dong Myong Elementary School in the final but lost the match 2-0.

"I thought the Japanese players had excellent skills in dribbling and passing," said Huang Kyu-hawn, captain of the Dong Myong team. "I hope to visit Japan when I become a professional soccer player."

Shota Morigami, captain of Kamo FC, said, "The South Korean teams were better than us, but we'll continue practicing hard so that we can catch up with them."

The players seemed to enjoy communicating with one another despite the language gap, trying out the Japanese and Korean phrases they learned before the tournament and taking photographs together.

"Before the tournament, I worried about getting into fights with the Japanese kids," confessed Kim Eui-ju of the Song-ho team. "But I found them to be very kind and a lot of fun. I'm glad I was able to make friends with them."

Yuya Kikuchi of Sapporo Junior FC said that he exchanged names and addresses with South Korean players.

"The important thing is not whether you win or lose; it's the friendship that is fostered by the event," a South Korean soccer official said. "I hope we can deepen our ties further and become even more competitive internationally."

The tournament began two years ago and is held twice a year. It is sponsored by two newspapers: Asahi Shimbun in Japan and Dong-a Ilbo in South Korea. Under the current system, two South Korean teams are invited to Japan in the summer, while two Japanese teams visit South Korea in the spring. The tourney will continue through 2002.

Photo: The young players show their moves at the international tournament. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)