In the silence of the night, it swirled and twirled. Gently emerging from the darkness of the sky, falling gracefully until it landed safely on the ground. Sometimes, its destinations rerouted with the flow of the wind. And finally it lay motionless on the dried leaves. An array of colored scenery dominated by the brown leaves and green hills quickly repainted into snow white. Everywhere it was coated by the same white color. If you’re lucky enough, you could see in the distance it sparkled reflecting from the light of the full moon. It was truly a moment for the cameras. Time seems to stand still as if preserving those precious moments for me.
Then as quickly as it had mesmerized me, suddenly it turned into a feeling of anxiety. My mind wandered far into the endless dark night. My stare pierced through the coldness of the night, penetrating deep beneath the layers of snow that was newly formed.The heart quickly acknowledged the volume of the mind. I was growing agitated not because by the wonders of winter, but by the plans made for the weekend. A quick glance at the calendar quickly confirmed me that snow had decided to come early this year. After all, it was still in the middle of November! In three days, the first Champions League football tournament in Japan will be held and it was snowing!
After weeks of careful planning and hours of sleepless nights, I wasn’t going to let this setback ruin it all. I just had to hope that the snow will subside for a while after this. We can plan all we want but at the end of the day, God’s plan is what counts. This tournament was originally planned to be played on an artificial turf, but I had to book 2 gymnasiums (for futsal) for backup just in case the pitch wasn’t playable on matchday. This was going to be the most prestigious football tournament in Japan as yet. And with it I felt the heavy burden placed on me as the head organizer. As its name will tell you, this tournament is an invitation towards only the best teams within Japan in 2008. It will gather four champions from tournaments held earlier and another 2 teams will make up the pack. These teams are as follow:
- Nagaoka (Touhoku champion)
- Toyama (Gifu Champion)
- Toyohashi ( Kansai Champion)
- Gunma (Hokuriku Runners up)
- Ibaraki (Invitational)
- All-Stars (IPIJ)
Time was not on our side. Just 2 days before the kickoff, the artificial pitch was still partially covered in wet icy snow. We (Nagaoka Team) had to train on it that night to acclimatize ourselves just in case. Well, if the weather is still not permitting us to play on the pitch then we will continue with playing indoor futsal. (It was fortunate that I did in the end.)
Somehow, we managed to overcome the hiccups (there’s plenty of it actually) eventually. I woke up early on matchday and breathed a sigh of relief. The snow had subsided due to the heavy rainfall the day before. At last it was going according to plan. The artificial pitch was the main attraction to the tournament I guess. The teams started to arrive on schedule. After a brief welcoming speech by the organizers, the tournament was kicked off with Ibaraki up against Nagoaka. The first match went well, with both sides playing their best to be the first champion of the Champions League Cup. Everyone knew that the bragging rights of being the best team in Japan were at stake. The weather was starting to crumble due to the eagerness of the rain of breaking out. Not long after that rain lashed out at us. Occasionally lightings could be seen in the distance followed by a brief appearance of the hard hitting gales. The participant teams bravely endured the least than ideal weather for 2 rounds of matches.
With the break of lunch and prayers, we gathered all of the captains and came to and agreement. For the safety of the players, the tournament will continue inside. We will play out the remaining fixtures indoors playing futsal. This tournament was unique in itself, as it was the first tournament to be held with teams playing pitch football and then squaring it up with playing futsal. All of the teams played their socks off and tried their best. After a long hard fought battle of the bests, Nagaoka emerged as the sole champion of Japan. With the total grand prize money of 30,000 yen complete with hampers and a trophy as well, the winner was dually awarded.The full result are as below:
- Nagaoka (30,000 yen + hampers + trophy)
- Toyohashi (15,000yen + hampers)
- Toyama (10,000yen +hampers)
- Ibaraki (5000yen for winning the fairplay award + hampers)
- All-Stars (hampers)
- Gunma (hampers)
The teams later got together that night and had dinner together. It was truly an amazing event and one to remember! Not just for the sportsmanship of the teams involved but also for the torrid weather that we played in!Fears of hot temperaments in decisive matches were quickly quashed as we all played with pure sportsmanship.
Congratulations for the winners and I am forever grateful to all the people who have help in making this dream happen. Thank you and hope we’ll get the chance to meet again next year! Goodluck!