TOKYO, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The J.League Players OB Party held a regional exchange event in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 20, 2012, to which former Italian professional footballers were invited.
The Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit Japan's Tohoku (northeastern) region on March 11, 2011, has left heavy scars in Japan. However, reconstruction has been making slow but steady progress in the stricken areas. Former J.League players held a soccer exchange event for about 400 children in Iwaki City to support reconstruction efforts, communicating in Japan and abroad a message that the reconstruction is making steady progress.
Sharing the thoughts of former Japanese players, four Italian ex-superstars -- Franco Baresi, Dino Baggio, Salvatore Schillaci and Angelo Colombo -- also took part in the event. The Italians, who had practiced in the Tohoku region for the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted in Japan and South Korea, have been deeply concerned about the earthquake and have been supporting the reconstruction efforts from early on.
The former Japanese and Italian footballers who participated in the event also visited Spa Resort Hawaiians, a popular tourist spot in Fukushima Prefecture.
Nobuhiro Takeda of the J.League Players OB Party commented:
"It is important to actually visit the stricken areas and feel. Responded to our call, the Italians have come all the way to participate in the event. We hope to give courage and smiles to children through soccer. As I have been appointed Sunshine Iwaki International Tourism Ambassador by Iwaki City, I will spread the charms of Iwaki to the rest of the world."
Franco Baresi, a former Italian footballer, commented:
"Thank you for having invited us to the event to represent Italy. Sports give courage to the people. We would like to be useful to Japan through sports."
Takao Watanabe, Mayor of Iwaki City, commented:
"In the Great East Japan Earthquake, Iwaki City suffered the greatest number of damaged homes second only to Sendai City. Children are treasures for Iwaki and for Japan. I deeply thank the J.League Players OB Party and the former Italian players for having given us courage and power through sports today."
About J.League Players OB Party
The "J.League Players OB Party" was established by former J.League players across Japan to contribute to the further development of soccer in Japan and the J.League. As an organization sharing the goal with the J.League and clubs, members of the OB Party will unite to support the activities for spreading soccer and also nurturing players at the grass-roots level, and to work for the development of soccer.
For more details, please visit: http://j-ob.or.jp/ (Japanese only)
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SOURCE J.League Players OB Party