Homeless Japanese soccer player finds team spirit at Milan world cup
After playing in Milan's world cup for the homeless, things are looking up for Japan's Yutaro Gomikawa.
2011 Reflections: Suddenly, a new era in the Middle East
2011 Reflections: the end of a landmark year for Latin America
2011 Reflections: Africa rises, taking charge of its affairs
How the 'Year of the Protester' played out in Europe
In Prague, a tale of communism past
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Well, Yutaro Gomikawa went to Milan with the Japanese team, and it seems to have done him a whole lot of good.
“He is, like, always smiling” says Eriko Sato, a staffer on The Big Issue, a monthly magazine that homeless people sell to earn some money. “The boost to his self confidence is obvious.”
That clearly has little to do with the Japanese team’s overall performance at the tournament: They lost all eight of their games, often by wide margins (most notably, 17-1 against South Africa).
But Mr. Gomikawa says that doesn’t really bother him. “We all worked hard and we did our best,” he says.
What did give him a lift, reckons Ms. Sato, is the fact that Gomikawa won one of the “fair play” awards that were given each day. And the whole experience seems to have made him more of a team player.
“Homeless people are often very egotistical, and don’t think about other people” says Sato. “They are the lowest of the low and it’s very, very difficult for them to show empathy for others.”
When Gomikawa first came to the Big Issue office, Sato recalls, he was always interrupting other peoples’ conversations. Now he is much more considerate.
That is apparent when the young player describes what impressed him most in Milan. It had nothing to do with him. Rather, it was when a teammate scored a spectacular goal.
“The moment that ball hit the back of the net was what I lived for in Milan,” he remembers. “I was so happy when my friend scored. That was the most brilliant moment I have ever experienced.”
Gomikawa is still looking for work. He had been offered an interview for a security guard’s job before he went to Milan, but when he came back the company had hired someone else.
“I was a bit depressed, but never mind,” he says. He has another soccer match coming up. “Let me think about my job hunting after that.”