Twelve months ago today, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup commenced in Japan, and a tangible legacy of that successful tournament is still resonating strongly.

The Young Nadeshiko impressed by reaching third at Japan 2012 in typically stylish fashion, while a sample of the nation’s latest crop of young talent took a step towards future stardom by participating in last week’s Live Your Goals (LYG) festival in Sakai, Osaka.

Players in the U-15 age bracket travelled from far and wide to take part with participants hailing from eight diverse locations including Hokkaido, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Hiroshima, Okayama, Oita and Tokyo.

Last year saw some 20 Live Your Goals festivals held across the length and breadth of Japan, many coinciding with the 16-nation World Cup. The Japan Football Association (JFA), supported by FIFA, have ensured that the legacy from the tournament remains real, with two LYG festivals currently confirmed, while 47 of the nation’s regional football associations have been consulted about operating grassroots festivals for girls.

The primary aims of the festivals include encouraging and supporting girls’ teams, creating an environment for girls to play football, stimulating motivation and dreams, and to offer an opportunity to meet new friends who love football.

The comments of just some of the 100 players on hand in Osaka suggested that many of the festivals aims were met. “I feel it is very good to have this kind of opportunity to meet friends. I’m going to value this and always enjoy football,” stated one participant. “I want to be a member of Nadeshiko Japan,” said another, setting no limits to her ambitions. “I will enter high school next year and I will continue to try hard to be a good player.”

Special guest
Over 100 participants in Osaka not only enjoyed three days of activity amid the warm summer sun, but were treated to a very special guest in the shape of FIFA Women’s World Cup™-winning coach and 2011 FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year, Norio Sasaki.

“I’m very glad to see the girls enjoy football,” Sasaki said. “I hope they will find this stimulating and enhance their love of football more. The antonym of “success” is not “failure” but “not trying”. I hope these young players challenge themselves and learn many things because of it.”

The festival also provided an opportunity for coaches to learn from the expertise and experience offered by the likes of Sasaki and Eiji Ueda, chairman of the JFA women’s football committee. “The girls in my team normally play with boys in their schools,” stated one visiting coach. “This kind of football camp with girls from all over Japan would be so enjoyable for them, and I believe this will spread their dreams. Also for me as a coach, it is good opportunity to learn coaching skills. I will try to take them back to my team. I also learned many things from the lecture of Mr Sasaki. I’m going to keep conveying these points to my players.”

Another LYG festival, similar in size and structure, will be held in Shizuoka in early November.

“We want to encourage and support more U-15 players,” said Ueda, who coached Japan at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. “Many girls start playing football around the U-12 level, but some stop by U-15 level because we don’t have enough teams for them. This year, we continue to organize special LYG festivals for U-15s to help stimulate that age bracket.”