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What is FC Echigo-Tsumari - Agriculture x Football? The first year in Echigo-Tsumari

13 February 2020

The 1st year in Echigo-Tsumari

Hi everyone. I am Takahashi, a member of the FC Echigo-Tsumari.

It has been half year since I came to Echigo-Tsumari and joined the team last October.

My father was originally from Tokamachi-city and my grandmother lives here. Echigo-Tsumari is a familiar place to me since my childhood and ETAT was already taking place ever since I could remember. Abundant nature and artworks dotted around the city were close to me and I remember saying “let’s go and look at art” as I visited these artworks with my childhood friends. In August 2018, I was a university student and planned my long holiday on exploring art. It was then I discovered a football workshop by the FC Echigo-Tsumari. About one year has passed since participating in the workshop and I returned to this place as a player.

I would like to write about what I have been feeling at the FC Echigo-Tsumari and share my perspective.

Saki Takahashi who joined the FC Echigo-Tsumari in 2019

NUNAGAWA Campus (Murono, Tokamachi-city, Niigata), the base of FC Echigo-Tsumari is a facility utilised the closed school building which was launched during ETAT2015. We use the old infirmary which has been renovated to a locker-room. Each classroom in the facility presents different artworks. I have been told that local people planted the natural grass in the schoolyard when they heard that a football team was going to be established. Members of the FC Echigo-Tsumari look after the lawn now.

This is how the day like during the season.

9 o’clock in the morning. We start training under the blue sky surrounded by mountains as we look at birds flying with wings spread. I adore the scenery of NUNAGAWA Campus. Currently we allocate three days a week in the morning for the football training. We spent approximately two hours on ball-handling, shooting and physical training. While I had a simple question as “is it possible to play football with just three people?” prior to my arrival, we do our best under the current circumstance in creative ways by regarding unique items to the school such as corns as other players.

What keeps us going everyday is support we receive in the way that is so distinctive to this place. Local women bring a bag full of locally-grown vegetables to the ground while we are working out and guys driving light-trucks say hello as we go out for jogging. (Freshly picked tomato we ate after the training in summer was the most delicious tomato I ever tasted to date.)

 

9 o’clock in the morning. We start training under the blue sky surrounded by mountains as we look at birds flying with wings spread.

We work on the rice field in the afternoon on training days and in the morning on non-training days. As a member of “Matsudai Tanada Bank”, we help rice production on the rice fields which have lost owners due to the lack of successor. I felt slightly troubled at the beginning when I touched the mower and a farm tractor for the first time and having have to work in the deep mountainous area where there is no mobile reception. When I saw the beautiful terraced rice field spread in front of me, however, I felt determined that “I want to do my best to help preserve this landscape”. Meeting with farmers through Matsudai Tanada Bank is a big driving force as I engage with this “agriculture x football” initiative.

I was moved by the first experience of rice production. Insects jumped towards me as I stepped into the weed that keep growing even repetitively mown. Wild beasts ravaged field. I learnt the importance of rain. I would never forget about the moment when the rice produced through such process and efforts were cooked at last. The rice plant which grows overcoming various difficulties has showed me how to live strong.

Using the mower for the first time

The FC Echigo-Tsumari aims to join the Nadeshiko League.

As we only have three players, we join a local female football team, Tokamachi JACK to entre into the competitions of Niigata League. As soon as we have enough players in the team and we can register as an independent team, we could aim to join the Nadeshiko League as we fight our way through Prefecture and Hokushinetsu Regional Leagues.

Most of female football players play at club teams as they work and they do training after work. On the other hand, as “farm business team”, we are able to adjust our work schedule in accordance with training and competitions which enables us to focus on practicing football everyday. This is rather unusual amongst teams in the top league.

“Agriculture x football” – an ideal environment to live as a professional football player. The FC Echigo-Tsumari is a team which challenges to make this alternative approach work.

We can see the future when many of the local elderlies drive light-trucks marching on the football stadium. (We may not get a treat of tomato if we lose the game). I would like to contribute to bring smiles to local people face as I play football and help maintain the terraced rice field.

 

 

FC Echigo-Tsumari

Female football players move their life, take up farming job and help look after the terraced rice field while they play football.

“The FC Echigo-Tsumari” is a farm football team consisting of female football players who have moved to the region as successors of looking after the terraced rice field. The project born from ETAT is a pioneering initiative never seen before in Japan which proposes an alternative way to live in Satoyama for football players to keep playing footballs while through Matsudai Tanada Bank, engage with preserving the terraced rice field which have lost successors due to the depopulation and ageing. They aim to join the Nadeshiko League in foreseeable future.

 

 

Text by TAKAHASHI Saki /  Translated by Miwa Worrall

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