Memorial service held for Japan pioneer Yasutaka Matsudaira
Tokyo, Japan, March 9, 2012 – A memorial service was held in Tokyo on Friday for honorary vice-president and former 1st executive vice-president Yasutaka Matsudaira, who died on December 31 at the age of 81. The service was organised by two organisations that Matsudaira was closely associated with - the Japan Volleyball Association and the Japan Olympic Committee.
Involved with volleyball for most of his life, Mr Matsudaira played for Japan from 1954 to 1960, helping them clinch gold at the 1958 Asian Games. After retiring he went on to coach, sealing bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, silver at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games before clinching gold at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He later became head of the Japan Volleyball Association.
Japan Volleyball Association President Taizaburo Nakano related Matsudaira’s final words: “I am very happy that I lived for volleyball. I did everything that I wanted to do, and I have no regrets in my life.”
Among those attending the memorial service were Matsudaira’s widow, Mrs. Toshie Matsudaira, FIVB President Jizhong Wei, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, Japan Volleyball Association president Taizaburo Nakano, the presidents of the five FIVB Confederations - Dr. Saleh A. Bin Nasser (Asia), Cristobal Marte Hoffiz (NORCECA and FIVB 1st executive vice-president), Dr. Amr Elwani (Africa), André Meyer (Europe), Dr. Ary Graça (South America). Also in attendance was FIVB executive vice-president, IOC member and president of the Indonesia Olympic Committee Rita Subowo.
President Wei paid tribute to the pioneering work of Matsudaira: “As a player in the pre-Olympic era for volleyball, he struck gold for Japan at the 1958 Asian Games, but it was as a coach that he really made his mark on our sport. At a time when teams from Europe dominated the podiums of the big volleyball competitions, he ‘invented’ an Eastern style of play that suited the Japanese physique. It included quick combinations, speedy execution, floating serves and the time-differential attack. This, and his many new training techniques, took the Japanese men to the very top of the world game. His decoration as the FIVB 20th Century Men’s Best Coach Award winner was absolutely merited.”
Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japan Olympic Committee, described Matsudaira as “a widely respected leader of the Japanese sporting world.”
He added: “Mr. Matsudaira was my predecessor at Keio University, my predecessor at the JOC, and my predecessor in the Japanese sports world. He was proud to be Japanese and loved his country, a cosmopolitan figure with a personality beloved both at home and abroad. I can remember how he looked when he was stern, when he was gentle, when he was having fun. As I look back I see that it was the glimpses of kindness that he showed even amid his strict words and guidance that made him a leader who those of us involved in sport could gather around, could trust, and could follow.
“We can perhaps best express our gratitude for Mr. Matsudaira’s deep passion and enormous contribution to the Japanese sporting world by putting into practice the many lessons that he taught us.”
Naohiro Nakano, Matsudaira’s assistant in Munich, echoed JOC president Takeda’s words: “Forty years have passed already since the Munich Olympics, but we can still remember very clearly the tense atmosphere of the gymnasium that we practiced in and also Mr. Matsudaira’s severe, uncompromising gaze and voice. Mr. Matsudaira always said to us: ‘Don’t be satisfied with one or two fine plays; only with three fine plays in a row can we get a point. Life is not that easy.’ He also said, ‘Don’t look hurt if you only have a dislocated bone or a sprained finger; that will only inspire your opponents.’ The coach’s absolute trust in us led to the first gold medal for the Japan men’s volleyball team. Away from the court, his personality was really warm; he cared about all the players like a real father.”
Matsudaira’s widow, Toshie, thanked those in attendance for their support of her husband: “I feel very grateful that so many of you were able to take the time to join us for the ceremony today despite the demands of your busy schedules. All of you here today, each in your own way, offered my late husband your warm support. As a result, he was able to devote himself to volleyball, single-mindedly and without regret, throughout his life. For this I am sincerely grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
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