On a sunny Saturday in June, teams of ALTs made their way to Nagano hoping to be crowned winners of the bi-annual ALT Soccer Tournament.
Played in the beautiful mountains of Sugadaira, this was my second ‘soccer’ tournament in Japan. I wasn’t able to play last October due to an injury so I was set to enjoy it all the more this time round!
For the girls, four prefectures took part, and Gunma was enthusiastically on the ball offering two teams – good job girls! Our teams, Gunma-chan and Yuma-chan, were marked up against each other for a couple of matches.
Team members weren’t fixed and we subbed in and out. The striker you had been battling against one minute would be your fellow defender the next, which was most enjoyable!
Our girls played well, beating Tochigi Foxes and putting up a strong fight against Gifu Pirates. But I’m convinced Yamanashi, who showed up at the tournament looking like what can only be described as ‘pros’, had been taking the tournament far too seriously! We hoped our tactic of feeding vodka shots to their No.25 super-star at the party later than night would pay off.
After three games we made our way to the hotel, calling in at a conbini for some much needed ice-cream and alcohol. A refreshing shower, or dip in the onsen to soak our tired muscles, gave us the rejuvenation we needed for the after-party that never disappoints!
A BBQ was provided that night, although not quite what I had in mind… No burgers or hot-dogs in sight. Instead, the ingredients needed to create a giant serving of yakisoba!
As we munched on our dinner, a charity raffle provided the perfect opportunity to raise funds for Tohoku relief. Prizes ranging from a football pump to a sound system with iPod dock were up for grabs, raising 100,000 yen. The presence of teams from Fukushima, who are no strangers to the event, was strongly admired.
The party was as memorable as always. Whether you were smooching on the dance floor, had slipped outside for a spot of onigiri under the stars, or lost your jeans because you decided bed was too far away and it would be more comfortable to sleep outside, a good night was had by all.
Waking up for Sunday matches was not as enjoyable for some and, unsurprisingly, one or two players were unable to perform! Thanks to the vodka shots, we actually seemed to play a little better against the hard-core Yamanashi team but were still defeated.
The top two girls’ teams played each other for 1st and 2nd place, whilst Gunma girls battled it out for 3rd and 4th. The match was a perfect draw so we all came in at 3rd place, with the Tochigi ladies bowing out at 5th. We won 12 cans of Asahi to share between the 20 or so of us that played! Gunma boys unfortunately didn’t do quite so well, winning no games but having a blast anyway.
The tournament finished in time for our curry lunch and we made our way home. An awesome, fun-filled weekend in aid of a good cause with your friends… what more could you want? Go team Gunma! Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage, craaaaaane!!
Look out for details of the next Nagano Tournament on this site.
Thanks to Alice Volkmar for the photos.