An Australian teenager with Portadown roots has accepted a spot one of the most respected youth football Academy programmes in Japan.
Matthew Richardson’s father, David, emigrated to Brisbane almost 30 years ago and enjoyed an Irish League career with the Ports and Dungannon Swifts.
Now his 16-year-old son has taken a major step forward towards a life in the game by joining the Mitsubishi Yowa Youth Academy based in a suburb of Tokyo called Sugamo.
Matthew previously spent time at the International School of Soccer in Italy as a 15-year-old but attracted attention from the Mitsubishi school as part of the QAS Queenisland Academy Of Sport.
“Matthew has been offered a place at the Academy until December 2016,” said David. “He got the chance to visit the club last August and stay for a fortnight then spent another month in October when they presented a full-time offer.
“Mitsubishi do not have a senior team in the J League but can boast a good reputation of producing players so we agreed it was too good an opportunity to turn down and Matthew returned in January.
“FIFA rules dictate he cannot play in J League Youth fixtures until he turns 18 or has lived in the country for 12 months but the Mitsubishi Academy network extends to various competitions at high school or university level.
“They predict he will play between 38 and 48 competitive games across the year and his weekly programme features training every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday then games each Saturday and Sunday.
“Training runs from 5-9 o’clock in the evening and students have dinner before they leave the Academy.
“The Mitsubishi Academy has six full-time coaches and they believe they can develop him into a J League player,”
Aside from the football education, the Richardsons view the opportunity as a chance to give Matthew invaluable life experience.
“Tokyo has 14 million people or so and it is a wonderful chance for Matthew to learn and live within a new culture,” said David. “He lives with a home-stay family, travels by bus and train to the Academy and cannot speak Japanese.
“Mitsubishi have been great to deal with regarding visa and school issues.
“They have agreed Matthew will return home for a fortnight at the end of April to let him evaluate the situation.
“Right now it’s a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained so to speak and we will take every day as it comes.
“He has access to first-class facilities and training so is in a good space so we look on this as a life experience.”