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Japan women’s soccer team captain visits Saipan

SAKI Kumagai, a member of Japan’s national team that won the Women’s World Cup in 2011, was on island as a guest of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association and the local soccer community.

The captain of Japan’s national team who is considered one of the most successful East Asian soccer players of any gender, Kumagai  hosted a soccer clinic for NMI players on Friday and Saturday.

In a presentation at Crowne Plaza Resort on Friday evening, NMI National Team player Akira Kadokura acted as the interpreter in sharing Kumagai’s incredible journey — from her humble beginnings to her numerous achievements, and the path that has led her to where she is today.

The 34-year-old midfielder talked about the time she spends on and off the pitch, among other subjects.

Kumagai started playing soccer in 1999. At Tokiwagi Gakuen High School in 2006, she overcame many trials as she pursued her soccer career. In 2009, she joined the Urawa Reds Ladies. She then reached one of her biggest milestones yet by becoming a member of Japan Women’s National Team. In the 2011 World Cup in Germany, she made history by connecting the game-winner in their penalty shootout win over the powerhouse U.S. team.

This year, she will lead the Japan women’s soccer team in the summer Olympics in Paris.

She wants Japan to be the world’s number one women’s soccer team once again.

After talking about the trials and tribulations she went through, she said she stays motivated by keeping in mind the following pieces of advice:

The only thing you can change is yourself; enjoy every moment;  make an effort to have fun all the time; and do your best where ever you are.

In his remarks, NMIFA President Jerry Tan said, “Next year, NMIFA will be celebrating its 20th anniversary and looking back on how we started…and what we are doing today…the journey of NMIFA is really about building relationships and having different partners over the years. We did not do this alone.”

He said among the groups that have helped NMIFA throughout the years is the Japan Football Association.

“I think we just added another partner,” he added, referring to Kumagai. “I feel that…she…will really help us with continued development and she will inspire everyone. Five years ago, I watched the Women’s World Cup and watched Kumagai play. I did not expect that today she will be sitting in front of me,” he added.

Kumagai has seen action in the World Cup four times and in the Olympics three times.

“We also want to dream for NMIFA,” Tan said. “I will start dreaming even bigger because Kumagai is here.”

Published by Marianas Variety - Jun 10, 2024


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