At the end of the day, all we need is just a word of encouragement right?
Seven years ago a video went viral where a young Japanese boy was struggling to speak in Portuguese to his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. When the audience members laughed at the boy’s attempt, Cristiano quickly swooped into action and questioned them for laughing at the boy.
“Why are they laughing? They should be very happy. He’s trying so hard!”
The question the boy, Ryota Iwaoka, asked Cristiano was, “You are my favourite player and I want to play alongside you. So, how can I become a professional?” Until now, Iwaoka would never forget Cristiano simply telling him to believe in himself.
“Work hard and never miss an opportunity when it comes.”
Taking that advice to heart, Iwaoka was determined to be an excellent football player. He became a talented midfielder in junior high school but unfortunately, several schools refused to let him play for their teams. Eventually, Iwaoka was eventually accepted to Yamanashi Gakuin, a university located in Kōfu, the capital city of Yamanashi Prefecture.
He joined Yamanashi Gakuin’s B team before moving to its A team during his second year at university. It wasn’t until Iwaoka’s third and final year that he was going to be given a shot at playing in games, reported Sora News 24. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Iwaoka ended up losing his starting spot to another player before the first game of the year.
Despite multiple setbacks and disappointments, Iwaoka never once gave up at all because of the words his idol had said to him. He continued his training and as luck would have it Yamanashi Gakuin qualified for the national championships. To hide their players’ strengths from rival teams, coaches usually tend to play their back-ups. This meant Iwaoka will finally be able to play, although it was in a defensive position compared to his favourite midfielder position.
“I thought that these three games were my last chance. I thought I would have the chance to prove myself in these three games and get to the championship I dreamed of. I believed in myself and I played with all my heart.”
Iwaoka impressed his coaches and his team by defending diligently throughout the team’s first three matches. However, disaster struck after his foot hit an opponent player’s. Iwaoka had to watch from the sidelines as his team played in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
Although his time on the pitch ended, Yamanashi Gakuin won the game in a penalty shoot-out and went on to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals. They defeated the high-ranking team of Aomori Yamada in the finals and Iwaoka ran to his teammates as they celebrated in the empty stadium. Yamanashi Gakuin became the national champion for the first time in eleven years!
“We became the best in Japan!!! I was able to win the championship thanks to the people who supported me for the past three years and those who attended the tournament safely. It was great to play with my friends.”
It’s extremely inspiring to see how Iwaoka got inspired when his idol stood up for him and told him to chase his dreams. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters the most, simply trying your very best?
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