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A giant figure leading the Association Football Club talks about his student life

Mr. Naoya Okane

"Chiwa!" (Hi!) On the field of the Waseda University Association Football Club where lively greetings are exchanged, there is one tall guy surrounded by teammates. This is the captain of the Association Football Club, Naoya Okane. His high eyelevel appears as if he can take a hard look at the actions of his teammates and flow of the game.

When he was a senior high student, Mr. Okane spent 90 minutes commuting to Hatsushiba Hashimoto High School, a Wakayama school with a strong soccer team. The turning point in his soccer life came in the spring of his second year of high school. A new coach who emphasized independence came to the team to replace the former strict coach, who made much use of discipline. The new coach said, "It's meaningless to make you do it. You should do it on your own accord." "I didn't think it was that tough even when practicing until nine at night," recalls Mr. Okane. "The team when I was a third-year student gained momentum, and I never felt we would lose a game! I think you should neither press a team too hard nor let them do it too freely," he recalls of the past with a sense of nostalgia. "It was useful to experience two types of coaches."

"I wanted to become professional after graduating from high school," says Mr. Okane, but the path to the professional leagues was so narrow that he had to give up. At that time, Waseda University offered a recommendation entrance to his coach. Mr. Okane had no intention of going to university, and his coach rejected all offers from other universities but persuaded Mr. Okane, saying, "You must go to Waseda!"

"I talked to my parents, and when I checked the member list of the Waseda University Association Football Club, I was surprised at finding such big names as Mr. Hyodo (currently with the Yokohama F Marinos)!" He also wanted to play under Mr. Oenoki, the then coach who had one more year with Waseda team, thinking, "I would like to work with him even just for a year," and so decided to enter Waseda.

What was your impression after actually joining the Association Football Club? "The other members who also joined the team through the recommendation program were really great. I didn't think I wouldn't be able to do what they could naturally do." Still, he enjoyed the fact that his ability didn't work and practiced hard. This year as a senior student, he is fully motivated, thinking, "The coach trusts and expects a lot of me," says Mr. Okane. Showing his attachment to the team, he adds, "If what we achieve this year serves as a foundation and leads to further results next year and beyond, that is enough. Of course, I want to get good results, but I think building a foundation is also important."

Unfortunately, Mr. Okane has been experiencing physical problems since last year. "It was when I finally started to feel part of the team...I want to work hard for inter college soccer matches...but I cannot play in the game," he says, with an expression of irritation and regret.

How has student life in Waseda been? "It hasn't been as I wished, but it is still a life that suits me. I was lucky to have good teammates and friends. But maybe I should have enjoyed campus life more (laughing). Like taking classes in the Waseda campus and exchanging with students from other departments...It may be interesting if there was an exchange match between the five-a-side soccer team and Associate Football Club." He is anticipating many things of the rest of his student life.

It has been decided that he will join Shimizu S-Pulse in April 2011. The path to becoming a professional player that he had once given up on has finally opened. As a professional soccer player, we can surely see him play in his own way.

Mr. Okane and teammates. The letter W made by the arms of the people behind him is outstanding!

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Naoya Okane

Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1988. Graduated from Hatsushiba Hashimoto Junior and Senior High School. Senior at Faculty of Sports Sciences. He is 190cm tall. Leads the Waseda University Association Football Club as captain. Will join Shimizu S-Pulse in April 2011. His rival is Kazuto Ioka (professional boxer) who was a classmate of his at junior high school. His favorite foods are meat and parfait. On holidays, he enjoys watching DVDs and relaxing. The impressive classes at Waseda include "Sports in the movies." "My current target is to complete my graduation thesis!"