Archive for January 12th, 2022


Enjoy the moment

The High School Championships kicked off the 2022 Japanese football season in style, and while the stars of the tournament will be focused on further improvement in the coming years it is also important they remember to savour these moments of triumph… (日本語版)

Aomori Yamada were crowned as Japan High School champions at the start of the week, claiming their third title after finishing as runners-up for the past two years by beating Ozu 4-0 in Monday’s final in front of a packed Tokyo National Stadium.

The High School tournament is an iconic mainstay of the new year in Japan, and all 20 members of the Aomori squad will cherish the memories forged out on that famous turf for the rest of their lives, irrespective of what comes next.

And, while the potentiality of the tournament is what acts as the major hook for broadcasters and neutral observers, we shouldn’t forget that achievements at the competition remain important in and of themselves, not only on account of what doors they may eventually open.

In football these days – perhaps even in life in general – less and less attention seems to be paid to the now, with everything framed in terms of what it means looking further ahead. There is no time to bask in individual victories or enjoy moments of triumph, with them instead being framed as stepping stones on the road to whatever comes next.

In England, for instance, finishing fourth in the Premier League has surpassed the winning of a domestic trophy as a target for many clubs on account of the UEFA Champions League berth, and associated riches, it provides. For a certain strata of fans, meanwhile, supporting their club by focusing on the actual games they are playing has taken a backseat to the bizarre fetishisation of the transfer market, with one eye, if not both, constantly on what potential new signings – often only seen through brief clips on YouTube or Twitter – will bring to the team down the line.

The High School competition here strikes something of a similar tone, with observers cooing over the standout performers by emphasising the trajectory their careers could take in the coming years or which J.League clubs are sniffing around the signatures of the latest batch of No.10s strutting their stuff. The slogan of this year’s edition, meanwhile – “To Tomorrow. Then to the Future!!!” – also left no doubt as to how the tournament should be viewed.

That is understandable, but while many of these players will certainly go on to forge careers for themselves in the professional game, both at home and abroad, the vast majority of them will not. Their focus right now should not be on tomorrow or the future and whether they ultimately ‘build on’ this success by becoming professional or ‘fail’ and end up doing something else, but instead on savouring today, on revelling in the triumph of winning one of the most fiercely contested football tournaments in Japan, of playing in front of over 42,000 people at a world famous venue.

The cliche of ‘taking each game as it comes’ is anathema to football journalists, but it persists for the very good reason that is the best way to approach things. Grand plans can be made and long term targets set but, just as with everyday life, you shouldn’t take your eye of the ball when it comes to day-to-day matters.

That is perhaps especially important when considering that these players are at an age when everything is new and exciting and bursting with possibility. The mid-to-late teens are a period when experiences, friendships, and achievements become forged for life, and those who made it to the final of this year’s tournament will forever tell the story of their 2022 Coming of Age Day.

As Covid-19 continues to drag on, we are increasingly reminded of the unpredictability of life and importance of appreciating and enjoying what we have. An entire class of students faces the prospect of spending a large chunk of – perhaps even their entire – three years at high school under restrictions that prevent them fully capitalising upon one of the most exciting, formative times of their lives, making it even more important that they are able to relish the moments of release that do come their way.

Like winning a national football competition. Some of these players will become much more familiar to us over the coming years, others of them won’t. But for now, they should just enjoy the moment.

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January 2022