5 Things We Learned From Toyota Mekong Football Challenge 2017
The Toyota Mekong Football Challenge 2017 campaign kicked off a little over a couple of months ago. It has since been a very eventful period, not just for the participants but everyone who has been following both the Thailand and Vietnam youth teams’ journey.
It all started from when open-call sessions were first announced to invite young, ardent football fans to come forward and demonstrate their abilities, and culminated with the ultimate showdown of football skills at the Toyota International Junior Cup 2017 tournament in Nagoya, Japan.
We have seen more than plenty of raw talent in front of our eyes that made us feel reassured in the bright future of football in this region. But beyond all the action that took place on the football pitch, there were several other interesting observations worth noting.
1. The Support Shown by the Parents Were Second to None
Thousands of enthusiastic young footballers came to the football clinics, eager to show what they could do on the football pitch. At the same time, we saw how their parents had made time to accompany their children to the event, and cheered their little champions till the end of the campaign.
Rain or shine, most of these parents had to travel a distance out of their hometowns just to be there for their kids. It is this show of love and dedication that kept the children driven and motivated to do their best and make their parents proud in return.
2. There are Good Opportunities for Youths to Grow as Footballers
We know for a fact just how much of a formidable force both Thailand and Vietnam are in the football scene within the region.
What could be their secret?
There are several local football academies in these countries for these passionate boys to pursue their football aspirations. The Toyota Mekong Football Challenge is an added platform that offers aspiring football youths an equal opportunity to undergo structured training programmes, conducted by renowned local coaches. The boys’ skills and sportsmanship are then put to the test, where they compete overseas at a higher level competition with the aim of developing them into refined footballers.
With so much talent at the disposal of both these countries, the future of football here is undoubtedly promising!
3. The Kids Showed Maturity Beyond Their Years
It was indeed a challenging journey for the children in the Toyota Mekong Football Challenge program. For one, the boys had to be away from home for a long duration as they stayed and trained together as a team during the training camp, and competed in the tournament thereafter.
But it was amazing to see the level of maturity the kids showed in being independent from their families during those periods of time. Evidently, the boys translated this matured mindset onto the field as they displayed many counts of great sportsmanship in both the friendly and competitive games.
4. The Children Bonded Quickly Despite Language Barriers
The Toyota International Junior Cup 2017 in Japan marked the end of this year’s Toyota Mekong Football Challenge campaign for children from Thailand and Vietnam. The finale event saw these youths and their Japanese peers coming together, in the name of friendly football competition.
Barely any of the boys spoke the same language as their peers, but it was evident that football was the common, unspoken language between them. The boys showed us that the lack of linguistic understanding did not hinder them from being able to connect with one another.
In other words, their universal love for the game broke down communication barriers they had and helped them forge friendships. This leads us to the next and final point of our observation.
5. In the End, Friendship Was the Biggest Winner
On the field, the boys from Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan contested fiercely against each other. But off it, it was an opportunity for the youths to meet and make new friends, show respect to one another, and discover more about their newfound friends’ places of origin and culture.
A good example was how the Vietnam squad were so overwhelmed by emotions at the end of their training camp, where they had to part ways with friends who were not selected for the final team of 18.
And throughout the tournament, each side rallied the other teams whenever the latter faced each other; the Japanese teams got together and cheered for their Thai and Vietnamese friends as they clashed in the final game of the tournament!
It is this show of friendship and respect that makes football – as the great Pele coins it – the beautiful game.