Day 6 – Visit to Rice and Sake Factory, Lunch at Orange Café, Visit to Japan Soccer College, Visit to Orange Garden, Third Football Training Session
The day was packed with activities once again as Danial and Yuhen were joined by ten volunteers from the Yuhua Albirex Football Academy (YAFA) who made their way from Singapore to Niigata the day before. The first activity, rice harvesting, had to be cancelled due to rain and was replaced with a visit to a rice processing and sake factory. The visit to the rice processing factory was arranged by Kubota, sponsor of Albirex Niigata Football Club (Singapore). There, a rice farmer explained to everybody the process of rice hulling and bagging using the Neo Rice Master machine. The machine enabled the outer husks of rice to be removed before the good and bad rice grains were separated. Eventually, the good rice grains were bagged into sacks each weighing about 30kg. Danial remarked, “until I saw the machine, I thought that the good and bad rice grains were going to be separated by hand.” Yuhen added, “the machine really allowed the process of sorting out the rice and bagging to be fast and convenient.”
The sake factory tour took place at the famous Niigata brand of Imayotsukasa. The process of producing sake was introduced to everybody. It included preparing the rice and malting it, mixing the malted rice with yeast, mashing and pressing the mixture before eventually leaving the it to age. Both Danial and Yuhen were surprised to find out at the end of the tour that they could get a sample of Sweet and Sour Amakaze, a drink which was produced from malting rice and did not contain alcohol.
During lunch at the Orange Café, the YAFA volunteers took the opportunity to interact with Danial and Yuhen. Each volunteer asked a question to both boys on how they felt the trip had been so far and what were the interesting experiences that they had encountered.
After lunch, everybody went on a visit to the Japan Soccer College. The Japan Soccer College is an institution set up to groom and develop students interested in the subject of football. Students enrolled there can choose to learn on how to become a professional football player, referee, football coach, football physio or how to manage the business of a football club. A tour around the college compound was conducted and everybody got a chance to visit the classrooms, gym, dining area and football field. Yuhen got excited during the tour and said, “When I saw the photos hanging on the walls of students from the Japan Soccer College in action, it really inspired and made me feel like studying here.” Danial too wished that he could study in a place like the Japan Soccer College. He said, “I would absolutely want to study here. Even if I do not study to be a professional player, there are still many areas related to football in which I can learn about.” At the end, the two boys and YAFA volunteers were interviewed by a reporter from Niigata Nippo (Niigata Daily News) who wanted to find out more about this trip.
In the evening before training, both boys and YAFA volunteers went to Orange Garden, the merchandise store of Albirex Niigata Football Club located at the Niigata Station. The store was filled with player jerseys, scarfs and other collectible items. Everybody spent time to pick out and purchased what they wanted. Danial said, “this was the first time I entered a merchandise store of any sort. What caught my eye was that there were so many variety of items and they were in orange and blue, the club colours of Albirex.” Yuhen added, “even though so many merchandise items were on sale, I really liked how all the items were neatly arranged and I could find anything I wanted to buy easily in the store.”
The third and final training was held at the Apple Soccer College near the Niigata Station and it was with the Albirex Soccer School Under-12 Special Class. Danial and Yuhen were well-prepared on what to expect after going through two previous training sessions. This was the session both boys performed best and Danial even managed to score a goal when the players were playing a two-sided match. After training, both boys were asked to give their final thoughts on how they fared over the three football training sessions during this trip. Danial said, “this is the first time I got to train in cooler conditions and it was something I had to get used to. I also learned a lot from my Japanese counterparts on good training habits such as having focus and discipline. While I did better as the training sessions progressed, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement especially on the aspect of my speed and fitness. I will bring back to Singapore what I have learned here and put everything into practice.” Yuhen mentioned, “The last training session for me was better than the first two. Overall, training in Japan has been an eye-opening experience for me. At times, the intensity can be really great and the speed of the Japanese players is very fast. I have learned that I can be a skilled player, but it will not be enough for me to excel if I do not have fitness to complement the skills.”