Archive for August 2nd, 2012


Keeping up the good work

Charity events are great, but it’s important that people keep giving even after the attractions are gone…

The recent J.League Special Match provided another great opportunity to raise money for those affected by the disaster of March 11th, 2011.

16 months on from the tragedy the wounds are still fresh in Tohoku, and it is important that such events take place regularly so that the victims continue to receive the support they need.

Such fundraisers are fantastic, but I have to admit that I did have a slightly nagging feeling on the way to the match.

I wanted to play a part in the occasion and hoped that in some small way my participation was a kind of gesture of solidarity, but didn’t feel that, in real terms, me watching a charity game of football was going to do much.

The presence of Alessandro Del Piero – undoubtedly an altruistic move on the part of the Italian, who deserves much credit for his work in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami – added to these concerns, as I was fully aware of the fact that part of my desire to go to Kashima was to see the former Juventus star in action and perhaps even ask him a question or two.

The same is true of perhaps all charity work, and quite where the genuine wish to help out and sacrifice something yourself ends and the desire to feel good about doing something to help begins is always a difficult distinction to make.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in having such reservations, and speaking after the game the “Team as One” head coach Makoto Teguramori spoke passionately and intelligently on the matter.

“On the news recently we have seen the case of someone killing themselves because they’re being bullied,” he said, with reference to the 13-year-old Otsu schoolboy who took his own life by jumping out of an apartment building after allegedly being forced to practice the act, amongst other things.

“What the disaster [in Tohoku] showed us was how invaluable life is and that there should be bonds between human beings. We cannot live alone.

“Thinking those things makes me feel that just playing in the charity match isn’t going to help the rebuilding, but that what is important is that people have firm hearts to react to what happened.”

My concerns about why I and everyone else were at the game were misplaced, then. Instead of thinking about events leading up to the match, what is more important is to make sure that actions after it remain positive.

Indeed, Masashi Nakayama agreed that actions were key, suggesting that Del Piero’s decision to come to Japan was an example that should motivate people to think more selflessly.

“It’s energized Japan a lot, and everyone was looking forward to him playing,” the veteran striker said.”

Even the people who couldn’t come today and watched the match on TV could see that someone from outside Japan was willing to come here [to help].

“As a Japanese I hope that maybe it will inspire us to use our strength to help others, even when you aren’t affected [directly] by a disaster. I’m thankful that Del Piero’s efforts made us think about that a bit.”

Money, material possessions and physical hard work in the region are critical to aid the restoration process, but equally as important – if not more so – is emotional support.

Of course, not everyone has the means to fly halfway around the world, but a simple action – not just for victims of disasters, but towards somebody you encounter in everyday life who needs a helping hand – can contribute to making everybody’s lives that little bit better.

Again Teguramori put it much better than I could, closing his press conference with a moving plea for the nation to pull together more often.

“Many people died in this disaster even though they wanted to live, so people who are given the chance to be alive now, the Japanese people, need to live understanding that. I want Japan to progress more in that respect.”

I’m still not sure if my attendance at the game has helped in Tohoku, but the gesture by Del Piero and comments from Teguramori and Gon have certainly made me think about my behaviour, and perhaps that is just as important.

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August 2012