Football school reopens in Fukushima town of Hirono after 10-year hiatus

Players take part in their first practice session since the school's reopening.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) reopened its youth-training school on April 6 in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Hirono, 10 years after its base of practice was relocated to Shizuoka Prefecture following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The boarding school, JFA Academy Fukushima, held an enrollment ceremony for 19 boys to kick off the 16th annual class as they gathered at the J-Village national soccer complex straddling the towns of Naraha and Hirono. The academy is designed to develop young male and female players into world-class footballers. The ceremony was attended by about 100 people. JFA President Kozo Tashima addressed the gathering at the outset, followed by Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori and Hirono Mayor Satoshi Endo with their respective congratulatory messages. Takao Kanno, head of the Fukushima Football Association, also spoke, giving the students words of encouragement. The ceremony also saw video messages from national men's soccer team head coach Hajime Moriyasu and national women's team counterpart Asako Takakura, a native of Fukushima city. All 19 students introduced themselves briefly. Speaking on behalf of them, Haruma Tamura, 12, who hails from Fukushima city, pledged that they "would come up big and encourage people here." After the ceremony, they conducted their first practice session at a soccer field in Hirono and played a high-spirited game. The students hail from 13 prefectures, including Miyagi in the north and Nagasaki in the southwest. They attend Hirono Junior High School while living in the academy’s Hiiragi dormitory in the town. They will receive training from JFA-licensed coaching staff to hone their skills for three years. The first-year male students will be followed by a younger class each in the next two years, making the academy a three-class school in 2023. Female students go through a six-year course from junior to senior high school, with all six classes to be in place in 2024. They will engage in training in the prefecture while attending Naraha Junior High School and Futaba Future School in Hirono combining junior and senior high schools. (Translated by Kyodo News)