On Nov 9, 2019, I went to watch the All-Japan High School Soccer Tournament Osaka preliminary. (This competition is called Koukou soccer. Koukou means a high school in Japanese.) First, the area is divided into 47, according to the prefecture. And each prefecture has preliminary to decide one team to play for All-Japan High School Soccer Championship. (Only Tokyo has two tickets for All-Japan High School Soccer Championship. Because Tokyo has the most number of high schools)
Do you know how Japanese soccer players were trained when they are young? Historically, they are mostly playing for a high school football team. This is a kind of school club activity. As long as I know, in Europe or South America, they invest in not team but “talented player” for the future. However, In Japan, we organize a team and train players equally.
Do you know which famous Japanese players were playing for a high school football team? Keisuke Honda was playing for Seiryo high school. Keisuke Honda could not promote to Gamba Osaka U-18 team when he was a junior high school player(U-15). Basically, well-evaluated players promote from the U-15 team to the U-18 J-league satellite team, but could not achieve it. So he decided to play for a high school football team instead.
Shunsuke Nakamura was also a player who could not promote to Yokohama Marinos U-18 satellite team. The reason was Nakamura was very thin and small when he was a Yokohama Marinos U-15 player. So he was judged not to be able to promote to Yokohama Marinos U-18 team.
So, he decided to play for Toko high school, and he also made a lot of effort there and got an offer by the Yokohama Marinos TOP team.
Yuto Nagatomo was playing for Higashi Fukuoka high school. However, even though he was a starter for the team, he could not sign with professional teams. So he entered Meiji University after high school.
As I introduced, many world-famous Japanese players were playing not for the J-league U-18 team but the high school team. And that environment made them strong and has made Japan national team strong. The game I watched this weekend was also attractive, and I found many promising players for Japan football future.
Like American university sports are quite popular, Japan high school soccer is very popular. Check how many crowds are in the stadium!