[From April Issue 2014]
Dutch native Robbie SERVAIS came to Japan through “The Executive Training Programme” (AKA ETP) five years ago. With this programme, trainees from various European countries visit Japan. Then, for approximately one year, the trainees learn Japanese language and culture while enrolled at Waseda University. The object of this program is to promote trade between Japan and Europe through cultural exchange.
Robbie had studied in Niigata 14 years ago. After returning to the Netherlands, Robbie was looking for a chance to return to Japan and asked an acquaintance if an exception could be made allowing him to visit Japan through the ETP program as a soccer coach. Robbie is now coach to the J-League junior team, Omiya Ardija.
To learn Japanese, Robbie uses an app called “imiwa?” The app searches for corresponding Japanese words and related vocabulary from alphabetic input. You can also save previous search words, making it a convenient way to review vocabulary. By making sure he checks every word and kanji he does not understand, Robbie doesn’t slack off in his efforts to memorize vocab.
Work related to soccer is extremely popular, and the competition is fierce. Therefore, Robbie says he wants to perfect his Japanese and give himself an edge with his linguistic ability. In addition, he emphasizes that it is important to grasp the difference between Japanese and European soccer styles. This is because European soccer style, practiced in countries such as the Netherlands, is totally different from Japan.
“European players like to stand out and don’t show any restraint. This is because, in order to thrive, it is important for players to show off their individual appeal. On the other hand, the mainstream playing style of Japanese is to avoid risks and this means that outstanding players are not created. They do not openly express their joy at winning because they are considerate of the feelings of the losing team,” says Robbie.
“The plus side of Japanese soccer is the strong mindset to ‘win as a team,’ and disinclination for selfish plays. In addition, Japanese players perform the practice routines without complaint. Because they do not dislike performing the same exercises over and over again, their technique improves. In the Netherlands, players immediately get tired of performing the same exercises, so it is always necessary to explain why the exercise is indispensable,” Robbie says, explaining differences between the two cultures.
In February this year, Robbie became the coach of the official soccer school of Arsenal Football Club, one of the most renowned clubs in Europe. Robbie says that someday he would like to coach a top professional soccer team. Robbie dreams of becoming an assistant to a famous manager visiting Japan from Europe.
Robbie says he wants to convey the merits of European soccer while retaining the merits of soccer in Japan. “I don’t lecture the children; I let them think for themselves. Then I allow them to put into practice the play that they’ve thought up themselves. It means that they take the responsibility for their own play, and this is the way of thinking necessary for playing European style soccer.”
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi