Albirex Niigata & CUPS Welcome Junpiter Futbol
We have finally reached the last second day of our trip in Japan! From Tokyo, we took Joetsu Shinkansen, a bullet train to reach the west, Niigata in 2 hours. That was our first time
We have finally reached the last second day of our trip in Japan! From Tokyo, we took Joetsu Shinkansen, a bullet train to reach the west, Niigata in 2 hours. That was our first time traveling on a bullet train but the experience was great as we were mesmerized by the scenic journey throughout the 2 hours ride!
Upon reaching Niigata, we were immediately welcomed by Albirex Niigata official at the station where we have got no time to feel lost. After we had checked in into Albirex Niigata’s sponsor’s hotel, Hotel Artinn which was just a stone throw away from the train station, we were led to the Albirex Niigata Soccer School.
At Albirex Niigata Soccer School, we met up with their Technical Development Division, Associate Manager, Mr Hiroyuki Kobayashi and also one of their coaches, Mr. Shotaro Taniguchi. In fact, for those S.League football fans who are familiar with Albirex Niigata Singapore, these 2 names certainly ring a bell. Mr. Kobayashi was one of the pioneers responsible for leading the earlier Albirex Niigata Singapore team in their first few seasons while Mr. Taniguchi who had just returned to Japan early last year after a 5 years stay in Albirex Niigata Singapore Soccer School. As both of them understood how important was it for them to share their knowledge with Junpiter Futbol as well as Singapore football, we were granted exclusive access to nearly all areas of not just Albirex Niigata Soccer School, but also Albirex Niigata’s Denka Big Swan Stadium and Albirex Niigata Training Ground with the kind assistance of the entire Albirex Niigata team!
Denka Big Swan Stadium is an athletic Stadium where not just J.League football is played. Big Swan, as it is popularly known as, last renovated for World Cup 2002 and still considerably new. However, compared to the Stadium tours which we have done at other Stadiums in Japan, Big Swan did not show us much of its football flair. Partially, it could be due to the fact that not only are the footballers using the Stadium, there are athletes too – it’s a multipurpose Stadium. Therefore, we were unable to see much football exclusive setup at the Stadium which we could instantly identified and related to. Undoubtedly, Big Swan was still the biggest Stadium which we have visited during our trip!
Next, we headed over to the Japan’s one and only football-specialized Japan Soccer College. Typically, the students or graduates from the school use the term “CUPS” (College of Upward Players in Soccer) to identify themselves instead of saying Japan Soccer College. That is a college where students, both men and ladies, are trained to be footballers, coaches, referees and sports trainers. The school also offers course for football business management too!
Basically, the concept is very similar to our Singapore Sports School except that Japan Soccer College is sorely football-based. College canteen, gym, classrooms, video room and dormitory are available for the students. The College also offers scholarship and tuition assistance to students if they are qualified. International students are welcomed too.
This is also first of its kind in Japan where players were trained and developed for their J.League club, Albirex Niigata. Another exciting thing to note, majority of the players in Albirex Niigata Singapore are graduates of Japan Soccer College! So while we were walking around in Japan Soccer College compound, it was not hard to notice there were many newspaper cutouts or posters on the walls on S.League’s Albirex Niigata Singapore. Familiar faces like Arata Izumi (Pune FC), Adachihara Kenji (Bontang FC), Nagasawa Takeshi (former Albirex Niigata Singapore) and Shimono Atsushi (Woodlands Wellington FC) all appeared on the walls in the College. We even got to see a RHB Singapore Cup 4th Placing medal which Albirex Niigata Singapore won in 2009! The students there were certainly kept abreast of what’s going on in the S.League.
Our last destination for this trip was Albirex Niigata’s training ground, Niigata Seiro Sports Center. In short, people also called it Albillage (Albirex Village). Apart from the Albirex Niigata team, Albirex Niigata Ladies team and CUP (Japan Soccer College) teams do train at the venue too. During our visit to Albillage, we were lucky to catch Albirex Niigata Ladies team training on the pitch whom some of them belonged to the Nadeshiko Japan (Japan National Women team) team too!
The moment we arrived at Albillage Club House, we were immediately welcomed by Albirex Niigata team official Mr. Ando Tetsuya, who we used to work closely with in 2006/07 in Singapore’s Albirex Niigata Soccer School. After which, our Albillage tour commenced exclusively!
Although Albillage sat quietly at one corner of the country, everything at the training ground was nothing less superior compared to the city’s. All the facilities like meeting room, referees’ room, gym, lobby, futsal pitch and even players’ changing room were new and modern. Especially the gym, it looked just like a hi-end membership-controlled area where every player in the gym looked serious and working hard on their machines. The moment we stepped in, we felt enormously motivated!
Once we had controlled our excitement, we moved on to the training pitches which Albirex Niigata first team trained. Basically, Albillage consists of 4 Natural Turf and 2 Artificial Turf (1 futsal). The first team trains on both Pitch A and Pitch B (refer to above photo). However, the team rotates on both pitches on a monthly basis in order to allow the pitch to “recover”. For example, the team will train on Pitch A this month, next month they will be training on Pitch B, and they will train back at Pitch A on the month after.
Moving on from the training pitches, we were led to the training ground’s players changing room where once again, the detailed and professional setup further broadened our vision and enlightened us on how the professional club was running their logistic.
The interior setting of the changing room is designed in a way where the moment the player comes in, the layout will be directing the players to move along to collect their training top and bottom, get changed, and pick up their respective boots and move out onto the pitch for training.
Training gears are placed neatly on the shelves with hotel-like housekeepers taking good care of it. Various colorful boots are hung on the shoe rack with players’ jersey number indicated prominently above the hung boots. In fact, it’s not just the players who are well taken care of by the club, all the different physiotherapists and their medical assistants will have their boots ready for their match day duties! Unfortunately, we are unable to share the photos taken inside the Changing Room as it’s sensitive.
With this exclusive tour to Albillage, we have ended our SingaCup Promotional & Learning Tour to Japan. Big thank you to FC Tokyo, Kashima Antlers, Yokohama Marinos, Albirex Niigata & J.League for the great hospitality. Thanks Puma for the apparels and thank SingaCup for making this trip possible!