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eech made by Ambassador Orita on the occasion of the Ambassador's Commendation for Middlesex Wanderers Football Club

21 October 2003

Ambassador Orita with Mr Douglas Fay, Chairman of Middlesex Wanderers, and Mr Shinichiro Okano, Honorary Chairman of the Japan Football Association

Mr Fay, My Lords, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me a great pleasure to bestow the Ambassador's Commendation on Middlesex Wanderers Football Club for its contribution to the promotion of football in Japan and to the cause of friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom.

Middlesex Wanderers Football Club was founded in 1905, 98 years ago, to promote international friendship and goodwill among football clubs and other sporting associations throughout the world by sending teams of British footballers abroad, as well as by playing occasional games in the British Isles. Over the ensuing years the Club has completed 107 overseas tours to over 40 countries in the course of achieving these aims.

The Wanderers first visited Japan in 1967, and in view of the great success of that tour the Club was invited to return in 1969. On this occasion they presented a trophy to the Football Association of Japan. It is this Cup that is still today presented to the winners of the National High School Soccer Tournament, held each year in Tokyo. Since their first tour to Japan in 1967 the Club has returned no fewer than seven times. In appreciation of the contribution of the Club to the promotion of football in Japan, the Japan Football Association presented a Kabuto - a Japanese traditional helmet - to the Club. Today, the Kabuto is displayed in this room to greet you on this happy occasion.

In the late '60s and throughout the '70s, the Wanderers had a tremendous impact on Japanese football, in particular for their sportsmanlike approach to the game, and also for their singing of the Club song on the pitch after each game, win or lose. This left a lasting impression on thousands of young Japanese players at that time. The close relationship that exists between the Wanderers and Japan is evidenced by the fact that the Club numbers no fewer than four important officials of the Japan Football Association among its Vice Presidents.

I am delighted that Mr. Shunichiro Okano, Honorary President of the Japan Football Association, President of the East Asian Football Federation, member of the International Olympic Committee and Vice President of Middlesex Wanderers, has made the long journey to attend this ceremony. Your presence today, Mr. Okano, is very much appreciated.

This year marks the 130th anniversary of the arrival of football in Japan. Soon after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the Meiji Government took the British Navy as its role model for the creation of the Imperial Navy and asked the British Government to send officers to perform naval training. Accordingly a mission, led by Lt. Cdr. Archibald Douglas (1842-1913), was sent to Japan in 1873. Among Douglas's many achievements at the Naval Academy in Tsukiji, Tokyo, was the introduction of compulsory competitive sports, including football.

Thus, in this anniversary year, it is especially appropriate to recognise the contribution of Middlesex Wanderers to the promotion of football in Japan and thereby to strengthened mutual understanding between Japan and the United Kingdom.

The seeds Douglas sowed in Japan 130 years ago, richly fermented by the endeavours of Middlesex Wanderers, have taken firm root there. Last year Japan, together with the Republic of Korea, hosted the World Cup. Mr. Okano worked tirelessly for the success of the tournament as the President of the Japan Football Association, and I would like to congratulate him on his achievement.

The World Cup turned out to be a great celebration of the sport. It showed that football in East Asia is a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, it provided a new forum for Japan and the Republic of Korea to work together. The Japanese people demonstrated their hospitality to football fans from all over the world, and proved that they can be as crazy as anyone else! They dyed their hair in fancy colours, painted their national flag on their faces and jumped into canals in celebration when the team won. I need hardly remind you that England was the Japanese fans' favourite team and that David Beckham was greeted with near hysteria, not only among young ladies but also among young children. Last but not least, we did not have any hooligans!

I believe that Japan, through its involvement in the World Cup of 2002, has taken on a new responsibility for the development of the sport both at home and on the international scene. We must make football accessible and attractive to our younger generation in every corner of the land. At the same time, we must keep our national team competitive on the international scene. In this regard, I strongly hope that Middlesex Wanderers, a club that epitomises the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship as well as the sheer love of football, will continue to be the guiding light for the sport in Japan.

Without further ado, I would now like to bestow the Ambassador's Commendation on Middlesex Wanderers.

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