You’d probably have expected their 8-on-11 matches to be bloodbaths, and they were

In 2017, Kamimura Gakuen Iga School was established in Iga City, Mie Prefecture. The high school is a branch of the Kamimura Gakuen corporation of educational facilities including correspondence courses. However, even for such a large company, setting up a new school is a big challenge in a country with a steadily declining birthrate.

Initial enrollment was lackluster, so in 2018 Vice Principal Teruhiko Yoshinaga thought setting up and coaching a women’s soccer team would be a good way to raise awareness and attract applicants. Since another Kamimura Gakuen school in Kagoshima Prefecture was well-known for its women’s soccer program, perhaps the Iga School could do the same.

The only problem was that a soccer team needs people, something which Kamimura Gakuen Iga School lacked. The best Yoshinaga could muster, even after importing six players from the Kagoshima sister school, was eight – three shy of a proper soccer team.

Still, since the main idea was getting the school’s name out there, it was enough to get the job done. The team made the best of what they had and trained for an hour each day, focusing heavily on stealing the ball and playing multiple positions to compensate for their lack of people.

The players also lived together in a dormitory, creating a family atmosphere which Yoshinaga attributes much of the team’s strength too. This continued until January and February of this year, when the 18th Mie Prefecture High School Women’s Soccer Rookie Championship was held. This would become the eight-woman team’s debut tournament.

If being down three players wasn’t enough, Kamimura Gakuen also had to face the tournament’s reigning champs for ten years in a row in their first-ever match (Japanese high school teams often only play in tournaments, not in local league games). Using their aggressive strategy of constantly applying pressure and stripping the opponents of the ball, Kamimura not only fared well, they won their opening match.

The thrill of that win seemed to power the team’s momentum as they plowed through the other eight competing schools to reach the final round.

In the final game, Kamimura player Ayaka Yokomichi drew first blood with a goal, but the team ultimately gave up a point, ending regulation with the score tied and forcing a penalty kick shootout. Still, the underwomaned Kamimura Gakuen persevered, winning the shootout 4-3 and earning the school its first-ever championship, on its first-ever attempt.

It’s an inspirational story to say the least, and most reacted in awe.

“Damn, they’re strong.”
“They only had eight, but those were eight elite players.”
“Awesome! Great job!”
“Are they ninjas? [Iga city is famous as the former home of a ninja clan]
“Let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks they don’t stand a chance.”
“I wonder if that has more to do with the low level of women’s soccer in Mie than the strength of that team.”
“That’s like something out of a manga!”
“I’m scared to see what they can do with a full team.”
“Well, I guess we have our next World Cup team all sorted then.”

It is a great example of the value of working hard and not giving up by recognizing and tackling your weaknesses to reach your goals.

It’s exactly like the time when we got an X-Box One but couldn’t play our Wii U on the same TV, before realizing we could just patch the Wii through the X-BoxExactly like that time.

Source: Ise Shimbun, Hamusoku
Featured image: Twitter/@daisumf10kemari
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