I am a Japanese man living in Kyoto and am writing to demonstrate my faith, loyalty and passion for my beloved Saints.

When I first saw footy, I thought 'what a funny sport'; I had never thought about following footy at the time.

But once I watched a full Aussie Rules game, my impression was of a fast-paced sport, no longer a strange sport. I had fallen in love with footy.

To improve my English skills, I was reading news online and books, so checking footy news became one of my daily activities.

The Age reported that St Kilda was planning to play home and away season games in Wellington. As Wellington is my favourite city in New Zealand, I feel St Kilda is my home team and as a result I became a Sainter.

Yoshi meets Trevor: Yoshi's first game-day experience at Maddie's Match in 2018. IMAGE: The Footy Almanac

Red, white and black have been in my blood since I was 39 years old, and I started watching Saints matches when possible at the Australian pub.

The owner – who supports Sydney Swans – was happy to put footy matches on their big screen, especially when St Kilda were playing.

All of the footy discussions were very interesting there and I was happy to watch the sport I love and showed my passion whilst supporting the Saints.

I then became good friends with David Claridge, who taught English at state schools in the neighbouring city of Otaru at the time.

He is an Essendon supporter and knows I am a mad Sainter, so when he went back to his native Tasmania for Christmas, he bought me St Kilda goods that made me happy and helped me become even more passionate about supporting this great football club. We enjoyed sharing our thoughts and emotions about footy.

Nick Riewoldt’s on-field performances were spectacular as wer his marking and goal-kicking skills.

Stephen Milne’s ball use was great and his accurate goal-kicking was also impressive. Lenny Hayes' skills in the midfield was far more than just 'great'.

Rooey, Milney, Lenny, Joey (Leigh Montagna) and Kosi were among the players that kept loyal to the club as one-club players. I have inherited their attitudes into supporting the mighty Saints.

Yoshi with Yvette Wroby at Maddie's Match in 2018.

In October 2014, I ran into two Melbournians whilst on a tour in Sapporo. We started chatting, and of course the discussion turned to who they supported in the footy.

The mother, Yvette Wroby, answered passionately, “St Kilda!”, and she showed me the frames of her glasses – coloured red, white and black – and her key ring, then I said, “me too!”.

She was amazed and we talked about our beloved Saints and other footy stuff.

Then Yvette showed me her website – The Footy Almanac – and suggested I contribute some stories. I am very passionate about writing in English and agreed.

Getting an opportunity to write stories about footy in English had never been reality for me. It’s great to share my thoughts on the game and the club we love on the Almanac site.

A few months later, Yvette bought me a St Kilda membership and I got closer to the club. Since then, I've renewed my membership each year on my own to support the club we love.

In the five years apart from 2017, I have been an international digital subscription member. I can watch games live when I am free and replay at any time if I can’t watch them live. I am very happy that I have Watch AFL to follow the mighty Saints.

Having longed to travel to Melbourne, I eventually made it there in October, 2017 when I attended the Sports Writers' Festival. During my stay there, Yvette took me to Seaford and Moorabbin which allowed me to get even closer to the footy club.

Yoshi inspects the Saints' 1966 Premiership Cup at the Linen House Centre, Seaford, 2017. IMAGE: The Footy Almanac

Before Christmas, the Osaka Dingoes President Matt Gale saw my Almanac article through a mutual friend and asked me to contribute to the footy club. Exchanging messages, we discussed what I could do for the club. Beforehand I had never thought about playing footy because I thought I was not good at playing any team sports.

I could just do off-field tasks for the Dingoes, but I chose to play the sport I/we love.

Meeting up with Matt on Boxing Day in 2017, I informed him that I wanted to give it a go on the field as well as that I was happy to help him with off-field tasks. I have since become an official Dingoes player and been appointed a Public Relations Officer.

Before heading to the team training in February 2018, I watched Milne’s highlights video on YouTube wishing to be a good small forward like him. Having told Matt about it at the training, he gave two options for my number – Saint Nick’s No. 12 or Milney's No. 44. Thinking about it during the training, I picked 44 as I want to be a great small forward. And I have to admit wearing Nick’s great number 12 was too early for me (Sorry Rooey…!).

Yoshi lines up on former Western Bulldog and Hawk Brian Lake at the IMPACT Invitational Cup hosted by the Osaka Dingoes in July, 2018

I wear the No. 44 with pride and in Milney's honour and it's a reflection of my passion whenever I am supporting St Kilda. I appreciate Matt for giving me the opportunity to choose the number of one of St Kilda's legends.

When I was riding my bike in Kyoto in 2018, I saw a bloke running and wearing a St Kilda beanie and said to him, “Go Saints!”. He was very confused but realised that I was a St Kilda supporter and approached me and asked if we could take a selfie together.

As always, I was happy to take a photo (many Australian tourists have pointed at my St Kilda gear and some of them ask me to take photos with them), but I never thought it would be uploaded to the club Facebook page.

Months later, Giles Rittman – the running guy from Kyoto – found me on Facebook after seeing one of my comments that his brother saw and we reconnected.

Footy brings people together. Yes it's true and footy established a friendship between Giles and I as well as many other fellow Sainter friends.

Big thanks to my friends, as St Kilda Football Club is so generous towards me.

I attended the MRV Match on 20 July 2018 at Docklands Stadium and Yvette wrote a relevant Almanac story about the match and contacted then club president Peter Summers with her story. He responded to her and offered me free tickets the match against the Western Bulldogs if I were still in Melbourne.

Unfortunately I had already gone back to Kyoto so I missed out the opportunity, but generously reminded him of my faith and loyalty towards the club.

Yoshi meets the Saints: Yoshi with Jimmy Webster and Logan Austin in 2018. IMAGE: The Footy Almanac

Then the club offered me something again when they featured the story of Giles and me. We exchanged emails and I was offered some gear to be collected at the Shanghai Clash last year.

At half-time, I met Rachael Hobley from the club and she gave me a member polo shirt, a member scarf and a travel cap. I really love St Kilda gear that I received.

Without my involvement in Osaka Dingoes and AFL Asia, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the game in China. Matt was AFL Asia President at the time and encouraged me to attend the match in Shanghai.

I played in the Shanghai Cup hosted by AFL Asia the day prior to the St Kilda game. At the time, I filled in for the Hong Kong Dragons Masters. It was a great experience to be playing footy internationally too.

Being in Shanghai allowed me some opportunities to meet Nick Riewoldt in person. I saw information about a Sportsmen's Night at Camel Sports Bar on the Friday night on the St Kilda supporters' Facebook group and decided to go as I wanted to meet him.

Yoshi with his hero Nick Riewoldt in Shanghai in 2019.

After his show, my friend Wendy Stapleton introduced him to me and we had a good chat and took a photo. Saint Nick is a gentleman and I was extremely happy to see my hero.

I was allowed the field after the Shanghai game as I was on mascot duty for the AFL Asia curtain-closing game and saw Rooey. We had another chat and were both disappointed with the loss.

Despite not having the opportunity to watch St Kilda play finals footy since I started following the Saints and not having seen a live win yet, I have high hopes of the Saints winning our second flag soon.

Recruiting six good players from other clubs and having Brett Ratten as our senior coach has given me great hope of playing finals again.

We are facing tough and hard circumstances at present, but let’s hope we will get footy back soon and that the mighty Saints continue to improve.

My faith and loyalty will stay with St Kilda forever!

Your #1 Japanese Saints Supporter,


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