Yui Hasegawa’s signing for Milan came rather surprisingly and in the middle of the night, but now she is most certainly a part of the Rossonere family.
Hasegawa was born in Miyagi Prefecture on January 29, 1997 and joined Nippon TV Beleza’s youth team in 2013 as a teenager where she rose through the ranks. A move to Milan came earlier this year, on her 24th birthday no less.
She continues to earn plaudits for her international performances too having been a member of Japan U17 national team during the 2012 and 2014 World Cups. She then represented her country at the 2016 U20 World Cup, when Japan won third place, before being selected for the senior national team for the 2017 Algarve Cup making her debut in March that year.
In 2018, Hasegawa played at the 2018 Asian Cup as Japan won the competition which is no doubt one of her proudest moments. We at SempreMilan and our writer Stephanie are delighted to have interviewed her…
What was your childhood like and where did your love for football come from?
“I took up football because I saw my older brother playing. I liked spending time outside and play.”
What made you decide to play for Milan and what do you think of the season so far?
“Playing in Europe had been a dream of mine for many years. AC Milan showed me that they really wanted me, so it was easy for me to say yes. Being at AC Milan has given me the opportunity to grow at a personal level, but we are also growing together as a group. In the first round, I believe AC Milan did really well. And now, after my arrival at the Club, even if at times we didn’t show our full value, we are still second in the league. We can and we must aspire to always do better and grow.”
How are you adjusting to life in Italy, and how are your team-mates helping you in the process?
“It is very difficult to learn a new language of course, but my teammates are helping me a lot at communicating, at making me comfortable and settling down. Thanks to them, my life in Italy has been going well, without any issue.”
What do you think you can contribute to the team and to the growth of Italian football?
“I believe I can contribute by doing what I learned in Japan, bringing my experience in positioning well on the pitch, trying to read my opponents. Italian football has many strengths, which I would like to add to my set of skills, whilst sharing my own knowledge with my teammates.”
How popular is Italian football in Japan? Will more people follow AC Milan now that you’re playing for the team?
“Italian football has always been very popular in Japan. AC Milan, especially the men’s team for its history and legacy, has many fans in the East. I have been receiving many messages from AC Milan fans in Japan, so I believe the number of fans of AC Milan Women in Japan is growing.”
What are the differences between playing football in Japan and in Italy? How would you compare and contrast the playing styles between the two countries?
“Whilst we can rely on speed, Japanese players usually suffer more from a body strength perspective compared with other nationalities, including Italians. When it comes to physical confrontation, we are slightly disadvantaged, that is why we need to and I have to make the best use of my speed.”
You scored a goal against The Netherlands during the last Women’s World Cup. What was it like to score that goal and how disappointed were you when Japan lost that match?
“I was certainly happy for my goal, it was the equaliser, so we needed to stay focus and try to score again. In the end, I was upset for losing the game of course, but now the National team is motivated to do better at the next Olympic Games.”
Scorer one of the great goals at the 2019 #FIFAWWC 🥅⚽️
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) January 29, 2021
Do you like any other sports? Personally, I’m a big fan of baseball and the San Diego Padres in particular (aside from AC Milan, of course).
“I really like watching the most important international competitions, like the Olympic Games. I also like table tennis.”
What do you do in your free time to keep yourself grounded and to relax?
“I speak on the phone with my friends in Japan, watch movies and TV series on Netflix and I also spend time studying.”
How would you describe the state of Women’s football in Japan, and do you think it is heading on the right path with regards to training and overall competitiveness?
“As I said before, our strength is speed. We need to be more prepared when it comes to physical confrontation and we are working in that direction. We can certainly improve a lot there.”
During a recent Twitch live with AC Milan, Valentina Giacinti said she is teaching you Italian. How is your Italian now and is Valentina a good teacher?
“Valentina is trying to teach me some Italian and she is really going the extra mile by talking to me in English. She always talks nicely and I try to repeat what she says. Repeating sentences is a great way to learn a new language. That way I can learn how to best use the right sentences in the right context. I need to try and study more though!”