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Foreign students, technical trainees in southwest Japan compete in futsal 'World Cup'

An Indonesian player, left, and an Afghan player compete for the ball during the "Sagan World Cup" futsal tournament in Tosu, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Shinichi Nishiwaki)
Participants in the "Sagan World Cup" futsal tournament pose for a commemorative photo at Ekimae Real Estate Stadium in Tosu, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Shinichi Nishiwaki)

TOSU, Saga -- Foreigners, including students and technical intern trainees, living in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Saga played futsal in the "Sagan World Cup" here on Dec. 3 while the Samurai Blue national squad geared up for its round of 16 World Cup match against Croatia.

    With the full cooperation of a company managing the Sagan Tosu professional soccer team in the top J1 League, the event was held at the team's home Ekimae Real Estate Stadium. The tournament was hosted by the Saga Prefecture International Relations Association and the Japan International Cooperation Agency Kyushu Center to create an opportunity for foreigners and Japanese people to interact as such occasions became few and far between amid the coronavirus pandemic. Twelve teams consisting of 105 members from 24 countries including Vietnam, Myanmar and Afghanistan, as well as Japan, competed.

    The event kicked off with a speech by the association's head director Haruji Kuroiwa, saying, "Let's enjoy today together."

    Afro Kasasagi, a team made up of Saga University students from countries in Africa, won the futsal World Cup.

    A 32-year-old member from Benin smiled and said, "I've lived in Saga for a year, but it's my first time to see people from various countries like this. I have no experience with soccer, but I enjoyed the event."

    A 44-year-old Chinese national who came to Japan three months ago following his wife, who had started studying here earlier, was delighted and said, "It's great to be able to play at a place like this. It's also a good opportunity to get acquainted with Japanese people and those from other countries."

    According to Saga Prefectural Government statistics, the population of foreign nationals in the prefecture decreased from 7,204 in January 2020 to 6,394 in January 2022, but the number has been gradually recovering recently. "Technical intern" was the most common visa status among the foreigners, with 2,089 trainees. Broken down by country, the number of Vietnamese nationals was the largest, followed by people from China, then the Philippines.

    (Japanese original by Shinichi Nishiwaki, Saga Bureau)

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