Monday 13 July 2020, 05:21

FC Makunishi’s pride in star product Sugasawa rewarded

  • FC Makunishi one of 800+ clubs globally rewarded via FIFA Women’s World Cup Club Solidarity Fund

  • Fund designed to recompense clubs who helped players to an elite career

  • Nadeshiko star and FC Makunishi product Yuika Sugasawa played at France 2019

It was well past bedtime when the club faithful at FC Makunishi excitedly tuned in for Japan’s opening match against Argentina at the FIFA France World Cup France 2019™. Yes, the national team were playing, but it was more personal than that. Lining up for the Nadeshiko once again was club product Yuika Sugasawa.

Club Head Coach Hideki Eguchi always grows just a little bit taller whenever the image of the Japan striker lights up the television screen. After all, the 29-year-old Sugasawa started her junior football journey at the Chiba City club. And who knows what path Sugasawa’s career may have taken, but for the club’s guidance and encouragement during her fledgling years

Now, for the first time, FIFA is recognising those clubs - no matter how big or small - who have played a part in helping mould a promising player into an international performing on the game’s highest stage. It is a programme covering over 800 clubs and worth USD 8.5 million. Introduced for France 2019, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Club Solidarity Fund financially rewards those clubs who have contributed to the on-field success.

FC Makunishi have been in existence for 40 years training school-aged boys and girls. Throughout that time the club has nourished thousands of young footballers. None, though, have enjoyed as storied a career as Sugasawa.

Now a decade-long veteran in the Nadeshiko shirt, Sugasawa has collected a Women’s World Cup runners-up medal, and two AFC Women’s Asian Cup wins. In France, Sugasawa grabbed national headlines by scoring what proved to be the winner against Scotland.

And now, Sugasawa has indirectly contributed back to FC Makunishi via the FIFA Women’s World Cup Club Solidarity Fund. The club has decided that some of those funds will be channelled into offering more playing time for its players, via the Yuika Nadeshiko Cup.

The tournament will allow the club to interact with the local community and further promote the sport. It is hoped, too, that young players will be motivated to follow in Sugasawa’s footsteps.

Eguchi said it was inspiring for young girls to see a club product achieving at the highest level. “Yuika is a special player, and she looked comfortable on the special stage,” he said. “It proves that that even a player from a small team like us can stand on the world stage.”