Laie FC, a championship soccer team, is a group comprised of community members from Kapolei and Japanese students from BYU–Hawaii. Students said their bonds with community members have been an exciting and unforgettable part of their experience in Hawaii. Community members said they’re grateful to have students to play with them.
The Japanese students teamed up with Laie local Mike Akinaka and won the soccer tournament held in 808 Futsal, Kapolei last November, according to Kato, who has been playing on the team for three years.
Mike Akinaka said he is thankful for the opportunity to engage in fun and meaningful exercise with people from around the world. “Between the students and the community members, we're all there to unwind from the stress of the week by playing a game we all love. On a personal note, my wife and I do it to try and fight off aging.”
Jamie Akinaka, Mike Akinaka’s wife, shared their connection with BYUH. “We’ve been playing pick-up games with BYUH students since Mike was a student at BYUH in 2005. In the community, soccer is not popular so we’ve always had to play where the games were, which was with BYUH students.”
When the team is not competing in Kapolei, they still gather and play regularly with community members and other international students.
Masashi Baba, a senior from Japan majoring in accounting and a member of Laie FC, also said his bond with community members had provided him with different precious experiences and expanded his network. “I learned many things from them. Sometimes, I was advised about my life and my career.”
Hiro Kato, a senior from Japan majoring in information systems, said the most precious thing he has gained through Laie FC is the bond he’s developed other players from the community. Every week, according to Kato, his team had met not only local people but also students from other countries and family members of military who are serving in Hawaii.
There have even been tourists who came to play with them, Kato recalled. “I don't know how, but the tourists just knew we were playing there. They just came in and asked, ‘could we play with you?’
“I appreciate it, we’ve made good friendships. I just want to show respect to them. If you want to build a friendship with people with different nationalities, [playing] sports and making a team would build stronger [bonds].”
He continued, “I think some people just love soccer more than American football. That’s why they got together, soccer just [connects] people from all over the world.”
Through playing soccer in Kapolei, Baba said, he is able to see the world outside of Laie. “I got some friends who are not members (of the Church) through playing soccer there. Also, my team became a champion team there. That was the most exciting experience ever in Hawaii.”
Naoto Takashima, a senior from Japan studying business management and a member of Laie FC, said it’s good to have a connection with the community members, especially the Akinaka family. “I’m staying in Hawaii for a few weeks after I graduate. We’re planning to rent their house because they are leaving temporarily.”
Taiga Kashiwa, a freshman from Japan majoring in information systems, said he enjoys playing with skillful players in a regular group because it improves his soccer skills. “Compared with someone who just plays for fun, [the players in the team] have more experience. We’re also being better and better.”