The Japanese men’s national team was the most well-loved team in this 2022 Volleyball Nations League Week Two in the Philippines.
And that is not even an understatement, as Ryujin Nippon ace spiker Yuji Nishida shared that they felt the love the moment the team set foot in the country.
“So, in this venue, we have many fans in the Philippines. They gave support to the Japanese team every game. It was a good feeling every time,” the JTEKT Stings standout said.
“For every player, our focus is on the game and to win. But the crowd in this gym is very different, they boost us in every situation.”
Every single time Japan stepped inside the SMART Araneta Coliseum this week, thousands of adoring fans made sure that the team hear them.
These supporters who trooped to the Big Dome were not disappointed as Japan showed up with their best possible volleyball and came up with three wins — including a huge five-set thriller against Italy — against a single loss.
Nishida sat out that lone defeat against France but put on a show in the three matches he played for the world no. 10 side. The prolific scorer ended this leg with 65 points on 52 attacks, three blocks, and 10 service aces.
With such performance, the 22-year-old wing spiker believed that they have inspired not only their fans but also Philippine volleyball in general and particularly the local players. He even noted how well Japan-based players Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas do in the V.League.
“The Filipino players in Japan Espejo and Bagunas are quality players. They are young — we are about the same age — and they have a bright future.
“We have wanted to play against your national team in the friendly match, but we weren’t able due to the situation,” Nishida said.
Nishida and company will be flying home in a few days for the final leg of the VNL’s pool rounds, but with such solid support from the Filipino fans, they felt they will be playing two straight legs in front of a home crowd.
“The Philippines is like a second home.”