The FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 is the eighth major football tournament Japan has hosted since it shared the responsibility of hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ with Korea Republic. The club tournament, currently at the semi-final stage, marks the sixth time Japan has hosted this event, and comes after the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was held here in August and September. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Japan Football Association President Kuniya Daini spoke about how these tournaments have contributed to the development of football here, and the JFA’s ambitious goals for the future.
FIFA.com: In the decade since Japan co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Korea Republic, what changes have there been to Japanese football, both on and off the field?
Kuniya Daini: The 2002 tournament brought many things to Japanese football, and to Japanese society. Having the best teams in the world and their supporters converge on Japan helped us learn a lot about football. In addition, the media coverage helped people all over the world learn more about Japan.
To build on this, the JFA announced the “JFA Declaration 2005,” which sets out a long-term plan to develop Japanese football through to 2050, in terms of performance on the field and how we run the game here. In the past few years, many Japanese have started playing overseas, and this has lifted the level of the national team. At the same time, they’ve raised the profile of Japanese football abroad, and I think this gives players in the J.League some clear goals to aspire to. Taking part in FIFA tournaments not only boosts Japanese football overall through the experience of competing at an international level, but it also taught JFA staff so much about how to manage the game and offer a better product for the fans.
What have been the respective effects of hosting the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup?
The 2002 FIFA World Cup opened the doors to the world, and many Japanese were awakened to the appeal of football and the magic of a World Cup. Hosting the FIFA Club World Cup has shown the world we can put on a fantastic tournament, and this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup showed the depth of women’s football in this country. The Nadeshiko (Japan women’s team) have been one of the world’s top sides, and the Young Nadeshiko played some superb football to finish third at this tournament. I think these teams have really broadened the base of women’s football here. The national teams and domestic clubs are both essential components of Japanese football, and by having both play more against international competition, more Japanese will connect better with football and become more knowledgeable about it.
Japan’s organization of major tournaments has been applauded by football fans and administrators alike. Why is this?
In Japan, we respect others, and we have a mentality of providing wonderful hospitality. That nurtures professionalism in our own roles, and creates a feeling of team-work and a disciplined approach. Furthermore, by allowing for other people’s feeling and positions, we can make preparations that cater to everyone. This disposition greatly helps when it comes to organising high-quality tournaments.
Japanese football circles have been helping the recovery from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in various ways.
Through our “Re-Kickoff Japan” charity project at the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, we could express our gratitude for the support we received from around the world for our rebuilding activities, and we donated money raised through the auction of items provided by the teams to disaster-hit areas. We chose Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit hard by the catastrophe, as one venue for this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, so we could show that this area is getting back on its feet. And the global club tournament that wraps up 2012 is being held under the slogan “Our hearts are with you.” We plan to send signed flags and video messages from the participating teams to children in areas where it’s been a struggle to get football activities up and running again. The thought behind the slogan was, “We will never forget, and we will always support, our friends who love football and haven’t given up on their dreams."
Do you hope to host more FIFA tournaments in Japan?
Hosting these events enables us to stay abreast of the latest “global standards” in all aspects and get a few things within Japanese football back in order. By building up our international experience on and off the field, we can lift our organisational ability. And if Japan’s national teams perform well, we can generate more momentum. If the conditions are right, I’d like Japan to regularly host FIFA tournaments.
What is the JFA’s vision for Japanese football?
We’re moving ahead with the medium- and long-term objectives spelled out in our 2005 declaration. By 2050, we want to host a FIFA World Cup on our own, and for Japan to win that tournament. We also want to expand our “football family” to ten million. I hope all the JFA staff will work together to achieve these goals.