October 17, 2018 - 8:45am
By Rachel Stern
For Shun Takano, his teammates are his band of brothers. The VIU Mariners student-athlete, a midfielder who plays on the men’s soccer team, says they are like family and he receives so much support both on and off the pitch. Takano, an ESL student from Chiba, Japan, came to VIU to study English and play the sport he loves at a higher professional level. Last season did not disappoint. VIU's men's soccer team won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Nationals and during the tournament, Takano was named Most Valuable Player. He was also a finalist for Sport BC’s College Athlete of the Year.
Takano’s love of soccer started when a girl in his Kindergarten class told him she thought soccer boys were cool. At the time, he was in swimming school. His father said if he wanted to play soccer he needed to pass his swimming test. He passed and promptly enrolled in soccer. While his infatuation with his Kindergarten girlfriend faded, his love for soccer never wavered. We sat down with Takano during a break from his studies to see why soccer is such a big part of his life and why he’s playing it here.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing soccer over the years?
I have three favourite memories in my soccer career: playing soccer in Italy, becoming a high school national champion in Japan, and becoming a CCAA National Champion here.
When I played soccer in high school, our team went to Italy for camp training one summer. I was 17 years old and I experienced international-level soccer. We played against teams from Colombia, Chile, South Africa, Slovenia and Italy. Those teams’ players were very skillful and stronger than us. Playing soccer with them was hugely beneficial for my soccer career.
Second is when our team won the high school national soccer championships. Although I never cry after winning a game, I was crying after that game!
The last one is the CCAA National Championship win last year. I had never become a champion in another country. This memory was especially important because the championships were hosted by VIU so we were playing soccer on our home ground. Nanaimo’s people and VIU students became one in the tournament. I cannot forget the moment — ever.
Why did you decided to attend VIU?
After graduating from high school, I did not enroll in a Japanese university because I wanted to be a pro soccer player, but the pro team’s talent scout did not contact me. Since pro soccer players’ careers are short, I wanted to do it right after high school. I went to Europe to try out for a professional soccer team, but I couldn’t have a contract with the pro teams in Europe so I decided to stay in Europe to play soccer with my visitor visa. A few years later, I started to focus on education instead. I was thinking, “What will I do when I retire from playing soccer? Be unemployed?” My friend said, “If you are interested I can contact the coach at VIU and then you can play soccer there while learning English.”
Why did you want to play soccer at VIU?
I heard about my teammates and some of the VIU soccer team’s victories. Our team is a diverse group because of all the international players, which gives the team positive chemistry. VIU won the national championships before, so I thought playing for VIU would be a good opportunity to be a national champion.
How did it feel when the VIU Mariners men’s soccer team won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship?
I had a lot of different types of feelings, but one thought was, “Finally!” I came to VIU in August 2016. We lost provincials that year to Douglas College. After that first season, all of us were talking about how we were going to win next year’s championships and concentrating hard on accomplishing that task.
At the tournament, you were named the CCAA MVP. How did that make you feel?
To be honest I did not expect it. My teammates were playing so well at the tournament and I wasn’t named a National All-Star; however, they said we have one more award to celebrate. Then they announced my name as MVP. I was confused, but my teammate sung my song, Hey Jude by the Beatles, so I could realize that I won tournament MVP. The meaning of the award is best player in CCAA men’s soccer. Therefore, the award gives me big pressure and responsibility, but I would like to keep it on my mind to achieve again.
What are your plans after you finish your degree at VIU?
After graduating with my Tourism Management degree at VIU, I would like to open a business that combines sports and tourism. I have been playing soccer for 19 years and I know other sports as well. Tourism is a big business market around the world, so connecting these two subjects is going to be a great business. I am still figuring out what I need to achieve the dream, so I cannot tell it here yet, but it will be quite a big project for people who love sports and tourism. I have not decided if I will stay in Canada or return to Japan.
*This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories on the VIU Magazine webpage.
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