They were a long way from Tokyo but Japanese football stars Takuya Nozawa and Yuzo Tashiro were afforded a rock star greeting in Wollongong on Thursday morning.
Scores of international students were also in the UOW College house taking photos of and with their favourite Wollongong Wolves players.
The humble footballers were a bit overwhelmed with the rock star treatment but enjoyed meeting their fans and talking up the Wolves partnership with UOW College.
The new agreement further cements the strong ties between the football club and education provider.
The Wolves latest star recruit Takuya Nozawa was also officially announced as a UOW College International Student Ambassador.
It’s the same role team-mate Tashiro holds, and will see Nozawa undertake a 32-week English language program.
Speaking through a translator, Nozawa said he was looking forward to learning English so he could better communicate with his new team-mates.
He was also looking forward to renewing his on-field partnership with Tashiro. The duo played together for J-League powerhouse Kashima Antlers.
Read more: Yuzo to work and play
Wollongong Wolves FC chief executive officer, Chris Papakosmas, said the opportunity to study at the UOW College had a significant influence on Nozawa’s decision to sign with club.
“Takuya is here just as much to study with UOW College as he is to play football,” Papakosmas said.
Our players have to have a Plan B so to speak and that is education. And there is no better place for that then UOW College.Chris Papakosmas
“After talking to his long term friend and former team mate, Yuzo Tashiro, he was amazed at just how much Yuzo was enjoying his time in Wollongong.
“Even though Takuya had significant offers to continue his career in Japan, he decided to come to Wollongong. He found UOW was a world class education facility which will help him with his English and give him far more options when he eventually has to hang up his boots.”
UOW College general manager Julie Renwick said the partnership between the two clubs was a great boost for the College’s profile and community engagement.
Ms Renwick said having Tashiro on board as an International Student Ambassador in 2017 was a huge success for the UOW College.
“Having both Yuzo and Takuya on board in similar roles for us this year will give us far greater opportunities. Using sport to leverage pathways to education is something I know the Wolves are very passionate about, just as we are here at UOW College,” she said.
Nozawa’s role will involve speaking at UOW College events, welcoming new students and helping the college extend its international reach, as well as being part of the Wolves’ education programs, which includes assisting players to continue their education and have a career outside sport.
Read more: Tashiro connection helps Wolves sign Nozawa
Papakosmas said the partnership with UOW College was the Wolves’ “most important”.
“Our players have to have a Plan B so to speak and that is education. And there is no better place for that then UOW College,” he said.