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AFC Women's Player of the Year pens the first of her exclusive column for Goal and shares her experience of starting out with her current club Okayama Yunogo Belle.

Enjoying Yunogo’s hot springs

Nice to meet you! I’m Aya Miyama of Okayama Yunogo Belle and I’ve been given a chance to write this column for Goal. I’ve never been very good at this sort of writing, but I’d like to tell you a bit about myself and Yunogo Belle so I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. For my first column I’d like to talk about my life in Okayama.

It’s been 12 years since I boarded a plane by myself for the first time and came to Okayama. On the road from the airport to Mimisaka, the city near Yunogo, there was only one convenience store. I truly had no idea what kind of place it was. I’m from Chiba prefecture (East of Tokyo). Maybe people from Eastern Japan understand what I mean when I say it’s hard to learn more about some places in Western Japan!

Until then I’d played at an ‘elite’ level for NTV Beleza and on the youth national teams. But I didn’t hesitate in going from that to playing for a team like Belle that was building itself from the ground up. It was a new start for me, and it was great to absorb myself in football every day, and that hasn’t changed. Playing football feels as fresh as it ever did.

To be frank, Mimisaka is out in the country, but it doesn’t affect my lifestyle and it’s very easy to live here. After the 2011 Women’s World Cup I received a pass from the Yunogo hot spring tourism board that lets me get into any hot spring for free, so I enjoy them every day. I almost never use the bath at home!

I’m the indoor type and tend to be somewhat shy, so on my days off I tend to spend a lot of time relaxing at home. My circle of friends is very small, but very close. During the London Olympics I got to hang out with a lot of athletes from other sports and had lots of opportunities to talk with TV staff during my appearances. But that’s as exciting as it gets for me. I only tend to let go in close company. I’ve spent more time with my teammate Miho Fukumoto than I have with my family. We probably know more about each other than we should!

Not a fulfilling first half of the season

After nine rounds of the Nadeshiko League, Yunogo Belle are in fifth place with four wins, two draws, and three losses. We finished last season in a club-best third place, and this year we wanted to aim higher, but we started the season with two losses and didn’t have a good first half. We recovered well, but frankly I wish we’d earned more points. However we’re still in contention, and we can certainly build on what we’ve accomplished so far.

With the league on a break, the Nadeshiko League Cup, featuring all 10 Nadeshiko League clubs, has begun. Our club’s goal is to win the title, and I want to play at a suitable level of intensity. Belle’s players all hold other jobs and we don’t only think about football. That isn’t to say we dislike playing, of course, but it’s tough for us to contend for the championship when we’re getting up early for work every day and going to practice afterward. However, that’s no excuse for not winning the championship, and it’s certainly not impossible, so one day we want to bring the trophy to the town of Yunogo that’s supported us for so long.

As far as I’m concerned, I hope I can have some sort of influence on the people who come to see us play. Of course it’s best if we win, but win or lose I want us to celebrate or mourn together as a team and a town. That’s our role in Yunogo, and we want to bring the town together.

Did you enjoy my first column? I hope I can continue to share my feelings next time as well. See you again soon!

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