Chicago Shimpo
2019 Japan National Team Competes in Chicago Suburb for FIVB Volleyball Men’s Nations League Title

• A national men’s volleyball team from Japan competed in an international tournament held in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates from June 21 to 23, facing off against the teams from China, Canada and the U.S.
• It was part of the five-week worldwide competition, 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Nations League, held from the end of May throughout the month of June.
• The Nations League was created by the FIVB (Federation of International Volleyball) last year to replace the FIVB World League, with the goal to bring the “action closer to fans” around the world. This year’s tournament is the second to be run by the new League.

• During the five-week period, 16 qualified teams (12 core teams and four challenger teams) competed across the globe to qualify for the final games in an all-play-all tournament format. Each week, the 16 teams, divided into four pools of four teams, competed with each other in the pool’s host country. Every team in one pool would play against three other teams each week, ending up with 15 games played before the final.
• After the five-week preliminary round, the top five teams gathered in the U.S., this year’s host for the final round, to compete for the League title in Chicago July 10 – 14.

• The Japanese team of 14 players began the tournament in Serbia, then traveling to Tokyo, Bulgaria, Hoffman Estates and Germany, staying for one week at a time.
• In the Hoffman Estates matches, held during the fourth week, Team Japan lost to the U.S. team 0-3, beat China 3-0, and then lost to Canada in a close game of 2-3, failing to qualify for the final round.

• Following the match against Canada on June 23, Team Japan was invited to the official residence of Consul-General Naoki Ito who welcomed the jet-lagged members with Japanese food and words of encouragement.

• “I can still recite the names of Team Japan’s 12 players in men’s volleyball at the 1972 Munich Olympics, who won a gold medal. That had such a strong impact on me that it’s been burned into my memory,” Ito said. “We hope that you will recreate that moment for us.”

• Hisanori Yajima, Men’s Performance Development Committee Chair at the Japan Volleyball Association, summed up the team’s performance in Hoffman Estates as meaningful.
• “Though we lost to the host team, we won three straight over China, our rival in Asia, ending our seven-game losing streak against it in official games,” Yajima said.
• Before the Tokyo Olympics next year, there will be the Asian Championships in Iran in September and the World Cup in Japan in October.
• “We will build on our experience here and work hard for further development,” Yajima said.

• Meanwhile, Head Coach Yuichi Nakagaichi stressed the hard conditions the players must endure while competing in an international tournament.
• “During five weeks of continuous traveling, having to share a hotel room and trying to perform at their best for three days on the weekend, the conditions for the players are perhaps beyond your imagination,” said Nakagaichi, as he thanked for the occasion as a welcome break.
• While he would hope to keep his team intact until the Olympics, he was fully aware that the head coach and the players must be replaced as needed, depending on their performances.
• “In any case, we will continue to build a team that will convince everyone toward the Olympics,” he concluded. “We’d appreciate your continuing support until then.”

• Hiroshi Tanaka, the accompanying physiotherapist from the Japan Volleyball Association, said the players have been suffering unrelenting jet lag that was making them labor for the weekend games.
• Tanaka said he was keeping an eye on the players’ conditions for their training but jet lag was a difficult adjustment. “I think it’s quite a burden for the players, and these were tough games for them to play,” he commented.

• Each of the 14 members of Team Japan has been selected from their home teams such as the Panasonic Panthers and Toray Arrows. They were chosen by the Japan Volleyball Association, following the end of the volleyball season in April, to join the national team.

Interview with Team Captain Masahiro Yanagida

Q: I understand that it’s an honor to have that Team Japan emblem on your uniform.

Yanagida: Yes, I didn’t know this until now, but the emblem’s got the gold trimming only when it’s for the national team. The trimming would be in a different color for the younger team, I heard.

Q: How do you get to be chosen to be one with the gold-trimmed emblem?

Yanagida: With your talent, obviously. All of the players in our team have a great talent, technique, and potential, with all different characters. You don’t take a test or anything – just picked out by the Association.

Q: It’s a group of players from all different teams. Any problem in terms of teamwork?

Yanagida: In the beginning, it’s hard sometimes. But [in the end] it works out because they are all top-level athletes.

Q: How hard is it for you, as the captain, to lead the team with members of such a diverse age group ranging from the teens to the 30s?

Yanagida: I try to not persist on “leading” the team just because I’m the captain. It’s best, for me, to lead the others by playing well. Play well as a member of the team first and foremost – that’s my ideal.

For me, the role of a captain is to encourage good communication in the team. Volleyball is a sport with a flow, and the air in the team has a serious impact on the game we play. It’s a pretty obvious thing, but I pay attention to the condition of the team, so that a bad condition of one of the players won’t affect the entire team.

Q: Thank you very much.


2019 Volleyball Nations League results are as follows:

1. Brazil (14 wins – 1 loss)
2. Iran (12-3)
3. Russia (12-3)
4. France (11-4)
5. Poland (11-4)
6. U.S. (9-6)
7. Argentina (8-7)
8. Italy (8-7)
9. Canada (8-7)
10. Japan (7-8)
11. Serbia (6-9)
12. Bulgaria (5-10)
13. Australia (3-12)
14. Germany (3-12)
15. Portugal (2-13)
16. China (1-14)

The members of Japan’s Volleyball National Team pose for a photo at Consul General’s official residence.

Team Captain Masahiro Yanagida presents a team T-shirt to Consul General Naoki Ito.