It's hard to believe that Tom Ellis and I are now on the other side of our World Cup assignment. The tournament is still going, but it's time to fill you in on what we got up to whilst we were in country. From players interviews, to visiting a Cat Cafe, it feels like we saw it all:
It was great to grab some time with South African-born flanker, Willie Britz in Tokyo. After spending time in Super Rugby, he now plays for the NTT Communications Shining Arcs, who play in Japan's top Rugby league. He spoke to us about how significant hosting the World Cup is, for the people of Japan, as well as sharing about his faith and how he has had to really rely on God in his move to Japan, where he knows very few people!
He has just qualified to play at international level for Japan but was sadly not looked at in time for this World Cup.
You can listen to the full interview with Willie Britz HERE.
It was quite amazing how fans from all over the globe came together to interact and watch the Rugby World Cup with each other, there was no friction, no tribe-mentality, everyone had the upmost respect for one another and their number one goal was to just have a great time! We spoke to countless Japanese fans who didn't follow Rugby, and didn't even know the rules, but got caught up in the frenzy of the tournament! It was great to see the locals embracing the sport and this has been helped massively by the performance of the Japan team, the Brave Blossoms!
Tom and I saw many kids playing Rugby in playgrounds and parks, they had football shirts on but were now playing the sport that they had seen on the TV! This is such a new reality for Japan and gives us hope that the Rugby legacy will be a strong one, long after the World Cup has come and gone.
We were able to connect with many Church groups and mission teams, who had come from Namibia, Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and France. It was so encouraging to see how the Japanese church was using the Rugby World Cup as a vehicle to introduce sports fans to Jesus. They told us stories of going into schools to run Rugby clinics, but ending up sharing testimonies of what God had done in their lives, to an assembly hall, packed full of kids! This does not happen in Japan, promoting Christianity is not allowed in schools!
Our goal going out to Japan was to give fans a flavour of the sights and sounds, keep them updated with the breaking stories that came from the tournament, and to provide Christian testimony, which we did, through players, fans, Church leaders and missionaries. It was great to be able to produce a programme that was informative and a real source of World Cup update, but also gave you something else, the stories of what God is doing in Japan.
We even ran into Typhoon Hagibis and were treated to an earthquake! I think back to having to place metal pans on my bed, to stop the leaks from the roof ruining my duvet! It was all a great experience and another win for Passion For Sport! You can hear our Typhoon-affected episode HERE.
Please pray for those who A) have been affected by Typhoon Hagibis, as the clear up continues and B) those who have heard one of the Japan 2019 daily podcasts, that they would take something away from it and that one of the faith interviews, even a quote, would resonate with them in some way.
You can Listen to our show from the tournament, the Planet Sport Rugby Podcast- Japan 2019 on Spreaker or iTunes.