The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, November 23, 2019 8:10 pm

Make-A-Wish brings US, Japanese power soccer athletes together

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

It's something Michael Archer of Greenwood never would have imagined – that someone from halfway around the world would look up to him as an athlete and want to meet him.

But that story unfolded Saturday at Turnstone's Plassman Athletic Center in Fort Wayne during a regional power soccer tournament.

Power soccer is a sport for people who use an electric wheelchair for daily mobility, said Jim Labas, president of the United States Power Soccer Association, attending the tournament.

The rules are much like those of able-bodied soccer, but the sport is played indoors on a basketball court with a ball about the size of a beach ball, he explained. 

Players strike the ball with an extended bar-like contraption on the front of their specialized wheelchairs and make goals when the ball lands in a net about the height of a person and twice the width of the basketball court's foul line. 

Taiyo Miyawaki, a 17-year-old power soccer player from Okayama, Japan, started watching Archer, 29, on YouTube as the center for the Indianapolis Circle City Rollers played in World Cup matches.

No, more than just watched, Miyawaki's interpreter, Haruki Masuda, said. 

Studied.

When Miyawaki, who has muscular dystrophy, was put in touch with Japan's Make-A-Wish Foundation, his wish was to meet the American athlete who was so good at the sport Miyawaki aspired to play professionally. 

"His dream from elementary school was he wants to play soccer," Masuda said, adding Miyawaki has been playing on a team for about four years.

Miyawaki and Archer started to get acquainted Saturday morning. Then, after Archer's afternoon game, the Japanese player got to scrimmage with Archer and his teammates.

Chants of "Taiyo, Taiyo," filled the gym, and Miyawaki scored twice and fed the ball to his soccer hero on an assist.

He smiled ear-to-ear during most of the contest.

Archer is the only player to have played in the Power Soccer World Cup four times, said his mother, Carrie Hayes of Greenwood. He was named Most Valuable Player during the 2011 tournament in Paris.

"So, as many idols as I've had in sports, I mean, that I'd be somebody's idol is crazy," said Archer, who was born with arthrogryposis, a joint and muscle condition.

"It's definitely something I never thought would happen, that somebody would want to meet me," he said.

Miyawaki doesn't have social media, Archer said. But he "absolutely" plans to add Miyawaki to his circle of friends as an electronic penpal. 

"We exchanged emails, so I think we'll keep in touch," Archer said.   

rsalter@jg.net


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