While there has long been a very successful Sunday Soccer Clinic program at ASIJ, November 10 marked the auspicious debut of an “official” ASIJ soccer match. A mixed team of Middle School and High School Mustangs took to the pitch to play Rikkyo Niiza Junior High School.
Rikkyo, one of the more venerable educational institutions in Japan, has always had an indirect connection to ASIJ, as our sixth grade makes a yearly trip to KEEP, the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Education Project that was founded by Rikkyo University educator Paul Rush. Rush’s legacy lives on at Rikkyo through its robust American football program, which extends to their high school. Coincidentally, Rikkyo was the first Japanese sports team ever seen by current ASIJ Activities & Athletics Director Brian Kelley when St. Paul’s (Rikkyo’s English name) faced the Mustangs in a football scrimmage.
Kelley arranged the soccer match with Rikkyo, who used the occasion to bring its third-year students (ninth-graders in the Japanese system) out of “retirement” (athletes in Japanese schools often retire several months in advance of demanding entrance exams) for one last commemorative match. MS and HS coaches Peter Vergel and Steve Harris assembled a group of Mustangs to represent ASIJ on what turned out to be a glorious Sunday afternoon. The official match was followed by a recreational scrimmage in which ASIJ students joined Rikkyo’s ranks.
As the two schools have now had exchanges in soccer, basketball, baseball, football, and even jazz concerts, Rikkyo stands as one of ASIJ’s closest local partner in the Japanese community. (Steve Harris, MS Soccer Coach)