Table Speech

“Miscellany about Soccer”

April 12, 2006

Mr. Shun-ichiro Okano,
Honorary Chairman of Japan Football Association,
Member of International Olympic Committee

Unfortunately, Japan, while being an advanced country, is a country in which value placed on sports by the society is very low.
For many years, Japan had been dominated under military rule and closed to the outside world. The central philosophy in military rule was the study of Zhu Xi in Confucianism. In the study of Zhu Xi, play is taught to be bad. In other words, people always live on the battleground, and in purity and poverty. Play is bad.
The origin of sports lay in hunting. Hunting in the past was procurement of food. Gradually, with life becoming easier some relaxation becomes possible. Here, this leads to challenge, “Let’s compete to determine the best marksman in the village with the bow”. In the competition the size of the target and the distance from which the arrow is to be shot need to be determined. The, rules are born. Food procurement thus transforms into the form of sports.
In Japan, sports entered the country in the form of physical education at the time of the Meiji Restoration. This was a subject used in building soldiers. In Japan, up to that point, samurai fought in the battles and the general population did not fight. During the Meiji Restoration, the national slogan of “Fukoku Kyohei” (Prosperous country and strong army) was given birth. Strong soldiers equaled everyone being a soldier. In the Imperial Decree issued in 1872, physical education was added to the compulsory school subjects. The origin of physical education was the teaching of basic physical strength for becoming a soldier, and discipline of collective behavior, which is the basis for a soldier.
True sport is culture. Sport is born from a playful mind. Today physical education that is common with sports is needed.
I would like to see the theme, “Where do teachers teach healthy spirit, healthy body that acts in unison with peers and the joy of working up a sweat?” that has become an issue in the world of education, be given as a task to physical education as a sport. Especially, strengthen the body naturally through playing team sports. Work together with peers. For example, in soccer, if the opponent breaks through the line of defense you cover for your teammate. That is the essence of team play. “We battled together with the peers and won. Good! If you lost the game, then next time we’ll try harder”. Such spirit is born naturally. The value of team sports lies in that.
I have been a member of the Central Education Council since 1981, the Ad Hoc Council on Education since 1984, and from 1987 in the Council on Lifelong Learning. As a member, I opposed the introduction of computer education in higher grades in elementary school or in middle school. I was the only one opposed and my views did not prevail.
The reason for opposing was simple. In learning, the appropriateness of timing of what you learn at what age is important. There must be more appropriate items to learn than computer education.
Increased convenience is fine. But it is important to think what has diminished. In order to achieve a normal physical growth in line with age, development of the nervous system, development of muscles, bones, and internal organs, one must use the body.
Changing the topic, what about the World Cup in June? The Japanese media are in a frenzy with stories of Japan making the best 8 or the best 16, but I am very concerned. Japanese professional baseball has a history spanning over 70 years, but J-League’s history is just 13 years. I hope from my heart that they are somehow able to achieve a good result.
In 1930, the first World Cup was held. In the history of the championship, this is only Japan’s third participation. The Asian allocation for the next tournament will be determined as a result of competitions held on each continent. I would like to see South Korea and Saudi Arabia and Iran to do well. If, as a result, soccer across all of Asia becomes popular, then that is a good thing.
Wherever you go in the world, the topic of soccer creates new friends instantly. Soccer is an excellent sport through which communication with the world can be created. I hope that Japan’s soccer team and supporters are people that contribute to global peace.