Toyota International Junior Cup 2017 – Where Football Meets Friendship
What an absolute cracker to end this year’s Toyota International Junior Cup! With the teams from Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan having fought hard against each other for the coveted championship title, the Thailand National U-12 Football Team emerged the victor!
It has been a thrilling journey for the boys from Thailand and Vietnam. In Thailand, for instance, over 3,000 young kids took part in the Toyota Junior Football Clinic selections, out of which only the best 24 were selected to represent their country at the tournament in Japan.
Let us look back at their journey from the start…
Day One: The Much Awaited Trip To Japan
It was the day they had been anticipating for. There was unmistakable pride in the youths for being selected to go abroad to play at a prestigious competition such as this. Some of the boys had never travelled to Japan before, so it was double the excitement for them!
]“I was so excited for my very first flight to Japan that I could not sleep last night! I can’t wait to meet the other kids from Thailand and Japan, and learn from them,” said Nguyen Canh Tai from the Vietnam squad.
The two teams from Thailand and Vietnam both arrived in Nagoya early on Thursday morning. They kicked off their visit with a quick hop to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which is a fascinating showcase of the history of the automaker, dating back to its founding years.
After a much-needed freshening up back at the hotel, it was time for the two groups to meet each other for the first time in a welcome party at Toyota Castle Hotel. It was an unforgettable experience for these boys to meet their peers from a neighbouring country. And even though both sides spoke in a different tongue, there was one language they had in common – football!
Day Two: Preparing For A Competitive Weekend
A visit to the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall was on the itinerary for the boys’ second day in Japan. The automaker displays its new models and technologies here, and it was obvious to see the enthusiasm glowing in the eyes of the children intrigued by automobiles.
But there was not much time to spare as the next day was the tournament weekend. So after the quick tour to the museum, it was off to the Toyota Sports Center for some light training and final groundwork before the first matchday.
With a slew of matches awaiting them over Saturday and Sunday, it was crucial for the players to shape up to take on their rivals. For the coaches, it was an opportunity to spruce up on the different tactics and set-plays before the teams faced their opponents.
“The upcoming matches will be tough as we will be facing strong teams from Thailand and Japan. But our team is ready to take on the challenge and do our best in every match,” said Nguyen Anh Tuan, the 12-year-old stopper for the Toyota Vietnam team.
Day Three: Kicking Off The Tournament
The Toyota International Junior Cup 2017 officially got underway! Both teams were raring to go – it was what they have been waiting and training for in the past weeks!
Both the Thailand and Vietnam teams took turns to face the Japanese clubs Ventforet Kofu, Nagoya Grampus, Kariya City, and Toyota City.
Each team had their own style of play. The Japanese teams were fast and nimble, and were a handful for their opponents. The Vietnam team played a high-tempo, effective counter-attacking game, while the Thai squad were profound in their passing, physical presence, and attacking prowess.
In the end, the Thailand National U-12 Football Team dominated the first day, scoring 12 goals in three games, while the team from Vietnam won two out of the three matches.
After a whole day of tireless running on the field, both teams ended their evening on a high note with a spectacle of football action between Nagoya Grampus Eight FC and Yokohama FC at the Toyota Stadium.
No doubt, the young footballers left the stadium inspired by the professional players and ready for another day of action!
Day Four: The Finals
It was time for the teams from Thailand and Vietnam to go head-to-head. In the spirit of camaraderie, the teams from Japan cheered on their Thai and Vietnamese friends as each team did their best to outdo the other on the field.
The Thailand team showed a bit more composure as they sprayed passes across the field and attacked their opponent from the first minute. Although the Vietnam youths lacked in physical strength, the boys more than made up for it with sheer tenacity and persistence in soaking up the pressure and counter-attacking the Thai side.
The fiercely contested match ended in a goalless draw. With the most number of wins under their belt, the Thailand National U-12 Football Team emerged Champions of the Toyota International Junior Cup once again, while the Vietnam youths finished the tournament as runners-up – well done to both sides!
Wetsaphoo Rothes, who plays as a midfielder for the Thailand National U-12 Football Team was happy to have scored four goals to help his team clinch the title: “I’m so proud to win the championship with my team and at the same time be our top scorer with four goals in the tournament!”
Days Five and Six: A Much-Deserved Reward
You cannot deny the amount of work and sacrifice these boys had put in from the start of the campaign. With the tournament behind them, it was only right for the boys to be rewarded for all their hard work.
So off they zoomed aboard the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo for some leisure time! While the team from Thailand indulged in the local culture at the Sensoji Temple and visited the Mega Web Toyota City Showcase, the boys from Vietnam had fun touring the Tokyo One Piece Tower and caught an entertaining dolphin performance over at the Epson Aqua Park Shinagawa.
More fun awaited them of course at the magical kingdom itself, Tokyo Disneyland! Boys being boys, they could not turn down the chance to get their adrenaline rush on the many exciting rides at the park!
“I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride so much because it is fun and it is indoors!” Puripat Siriwat exclaimed before rushing off with his teammates to go on another ride.
After an eventful week in Japan, it was time for the teams to head home. Champions or not, it was a win for the boys from both sides to take back home.
With new friends made, many memorable moments to look back at, and more windows of opportunity opened, we will definitely look out for these football prodigies in action again in the near future!