A Visit to Nadeshiko’s Hometown Around Japan Episode 3. NGU Loveledge Nagoya
Nagoya is the biggest city in the Chubu region, a hub that connects the east and west of Japan. Open to countries around the world, the port of Nagoya gives logistic support to the auto industry and other manufacturers in Japan. The vast port area includes Fujimae-Higata, a wetland registered under The Ramsar Convention, and a designated national wildlife sanctuary that stretches far like an oasis in the dessert.
Located just off the sanctuary is Nagoya Minato Stadium, where we attended a NGU Loveledge Nagoya home game. We met fans and supporters there.
In this series, we visit the hometown of each of the 12 teams playing in the Nadeshiko League Division 1, recounting interesting stories about players and their supporters. As you read, you will notice the significance of this amateur league, and why players are so strongly supported by people in the community.
Wearing a cute uniform is a good way to cheer! Nadeshiko League appeals to women and new fans
Rina Tanaka, Japan Tissue Engineering Co., Ltd.
On the day of our visit, the match was sponsored by J-TEC, Japan Tissue Engineering Co., Ltd. A ceremony was held before and after the game.
J-TEC, a regenerative medicine maker, is one of the top partners for NGU Loveledge Nagoya. The company provides medical products that utilize patients’ own body cells. As a means to promote their business, they uploaded an exercise video featuring the team on YouTube titled, “Let’s Dance Together! Nankotsu Kotsu Kotsu Taiso by NGU Loveledge Nagoya”. (http://youtu.be/KRh34vBtSJY) Since female soccer players are said to be prone to knee injuries, the team shows how to care for them in the video.
As a member of the Sales & Marketing Department, Ms. Rina Tanaka is involved in partner operations with the team. According to her, the biggest attraction of the team is that “the players are charming.” Recognizing their commitment to soccer, she really wants to cheer for them. “I like their uniform because it’s pretty and cool. And they make you feel like supporting them, which I think is their main selling point,” she said. “I can’t help but call the players by their first name.”
The video “Let’s Dance Together! Nankotsu Kotsu Kotsu Taiso” was recorded at the team’s practice field. To the eyes of Ms. Tanaka, the most impressive player at the session was Ruriko Takashima. “She was the leader,” Tanaka said.
Another player mentioned was Mitsuyo Tajima. “Before shooting, she said she could do anything staff needed, so we decided to leave her with the introduction. She virtually acts as the main host. She was such a big help,” Tanaka said.
The video session also gave Ms. Tanaka an opportunity to reflect on her own behavior. She insisted that once putting yourself in the business field for a long time, you tend to neglect politeness and manners. The team reminded her of these basics in life, as every player would come to greet her with a big smile. An experience like this, I believe, is one of the best things about sports.
We ended her interview with this question: Would you like to recommend the Nadeshiko League to female soccer fans?
“Definitely!” Her passionate reply was more than expected. “Men’s soccer is powerful and quick, but women are more meticulous and give you enough time to track the ball. Following the game is easier,” said Tanaka. She added, “I think the Nadeshiko League is very good for women and new fans. If you watch their games in person, you’ll be more emotionally involved.”
Ms. Tanaka, almost of the players’ age, supports the team as a trusted partner.
Building a community and making it bigger is a pleasure for volunteers
Akira Miura and Yuri Murata
Have you heard of “Aichi Football Friends,” a joint project to expand the circle of football fans? Organized by four clubs from the Aichi Football Association – Nagoya Grampus (men’s soccer), Nagoya Oceans (men’s futsal), NGU Loveledge Nagoya (women’s soccer) and UNIÃO Ladies (women’s futsal), its activities include cooperation among the teams’ volunteer staff. For the Loveledge game that day, we saw a lot of volunteers from Nagoya Grampus.
Working for an automaker, Akira Miura became a volunteer for Nagoya Grampus after seeing a notice in his office. He has been helping with perfect attendance for the past two years. When we asked him about the pleasure of being a volunteer, his answer was a little surprising. “I wouldn’t say it’s a pleasure,” he laughed. “It just brings you more friends. Your circle gets bigger. You meet with people outside your sphere, and you can ask for help, when necessary,” he added.
Yuri Murata is a supporter for NGU Loveledge Nagoya. With her daughter playing for the team’s predecessor, Nagoya FC Ladies, she once took on a leadership role in its parents’ association.
For NGU Loveledge Nagoya, many of the players’ parents work passionately as volunteers. While they are doing their jobs, however, they cannot attend games and cheer for their daughters. Ms. Murata confessed that she wants the parents to be able to watch the games. “If there are more volunteers, we would be able to watch our daughters playing,” she said.
To the eyes of Mr. Miura and Ms. Murata, who also attended Nagoya Grampus games as volunteers, Loveledge players have a lot of charm. Ms. Murata said, “it’s hard to describe. You just watch them play, and you’ll know how fun it is!” Long playing soccer himself, Miura admitted, “their skill level is much higher than people can imagine. I was amazed to see those pretty women with such great performances. We hope to have more spectators at the stadium,” he added.
Through this ‘interactive’ project, volunteers go to home games to support NGU Loveledge Nagoya, and look forward to meeting new people at the stadium.
Not only travel allowances, but a victory bonus, and even a draw bonus!
Toru Fujimoto, President and CEO, KAWAMURA KOKI Co., Ltd.
Finally, introduced is one of the team’s top partners, KAWAMURA KOKI Co., Ltd. Toru Fujimoto, the president, is known to be an enthusiastic supporter who attends both home and away games. He watches most games at stadiums, unless Coronavirus-related restrictions prevent him from doing so.
Though KAWAMURA KOKI is an auto parts supplier, their official website mainly updates information on NGU Loveledge Nagoya. Fujimoto told us why. “Because I’m committed to it,” he laughed. Joking, “there aren’t any updates for the company, you know.”
In fact, their website covers the team more than any other fan club. We tried to discover what is behind his devotion.
Wearing a neat suit, Fujimoto explained calmly. “I report on the games I watch, almost like a parent. When your daughter does a great job, you are happy, aren’t you?”
Currently four players work for the company. “For me, they are my daughters,” Fujimoto said. Feeling a sense of closeness, he cares and supports those employees hard at work through various in-house systems.
“Before playing away games, they need to apply for a business trip. I tell them I will check if they are really on their business trip. Of course, it’s a joke, but I go watch their games anyway,” he laughed. In fact, if on the bench at those games, the players can be paid for travel allowances.
Beside these allowances, the four employees can also gain a ‘victory bonus’ and ‘draw bonus’ as an extra to their biannual bonuses, depending on their match results. Those are not related to whether they are on the bench or not. “I hope these systems help motivate them to win,” Fujimoto said.
His love for the players was well expressed in his way of talking and writing on the website. Warmly watching the games, he said, “for all the workers, seeing their colleagues strive to win in a league on a national level is inspiring.” Victories of the team certainly stand behind the spirit of craftsmanship at KAWAMURA KOKI.
The match on that day ended in a draw with no score. But the game was so thrilling, spectators enthusiastically applauded the players. The next day, an e-mail from Fujimoto said, “unfortunately we couldn’t win, but I was happy to see three of my kids (employees) as starters for the first time.” His smiling face easily came to my mind.
This time, we visited a home game of NGU Loveledge Nagoya.
Text by Kazuhiro Ishii