Chapter 18: Farewell, Only a Beginning
After Kakeru and Nana signed their respective pre-contracts in March, they started the first semester at the TMU and were living together like a normal couple in Tokyo, in an apartment building owned by Kakeru's uncle. Despite changes in their lives, they haven't lost their seriousness in training. Private training sessions at the Urawa Red Diamonds' training ground with the team's physical fitness coach prepared both Kakeru and Nana for the tryout in Manchester. The video preparation with Noriko also proved to be of great help in identifying Manchester United players' strengths and weaknesses ahead of the tryout.
Both Japanese youngsters arrived with Noriko in England on May 4 and started training with the Reserves just 2 days later while living as guests at the Lewis family's house. During this period, Kakeru and Nana received lectures through internet links and e-mailed files; it was a taste of long distance education. At Carrington, Kakeru and Nana quickly showed great understanding of the game while performing a lot better than the other Under-21 players. As a result, Kakeru and Nana were sent to train with the first team for the rest of the tryout. Although the training was fast-paced and more physical, Kakeru and Nana held their ground very well. They quickly became friends with a few players, especially Shinji, Rio, Robin and Javier "Chicharito" Hernández. Although things could have looked awkward because of a woman's presence and despite the necessity to maintain Nana's presence as a secret, the young Japanese woman let her talent do the talk to earn the respect from her older co-trainees.
Meanwhile, Manchester United already won another Premier League title 2 weeks before the tryout, just as Sir Alex promised. However on May 8, news of Sir Alex's upcoming retirement from management at the end of the season shocked everyone involved with football. Kakeru then went asking Sir Alex what would happen next for him and Nana. Nonetheless, Sir Alex reassured Kakeru by explaining that he still expects both Japanese youngsters to be part of the team's future, and that it was the right time for the Boss to pass up the torch. Furthermore, Sir Alex said that his successor expressed great interest in working with both Kakeru and Nana in the future.
Despite the words of comfort, both Japanese youngsters were upset because they knew they would never have the chance of playing under Sir Alex's orders. Wanting to cheer Kakeru and Nana up with a first taste of what glory looks like, Sir Alex asked the club to reserve 2 tickets for Kakeru and Nana as a departing gift ahead of the last home game under Sir Alex's reign. Between May 8 and May 11, Kakeru and Nana continued training with the first team although all the players were walking into the unknown.
Sunday May 12
Old Trafford, Manchester, UK
3:25 PM BST
The historical match featured United against Swansea City. For the special occasion, every single spectator was given a flag as a gift: white for the Swansea fans, red for the United fans. Once inside of the stadium around the time of both teams' warm-up, both Kakeru and Nana were in awe.
"Oh, boy!" Kakeru and Nana both exclaimed.
"Impressive, eh?" Noriko asked.
"I'd do anything to play in here now." Nana replied.
"I also wish to play here someday soon." Kakeru added.
"For today and once in a lifetime, welcome to Ferguson's Red Army!" Noriko said.
"I never thought that my first time here would be on such a special occasion." Kakeru replied.
"And don't forget tomorrow in late afternoon: we have a championship parade rolling from Old Trafford to Albert Square. Will you be there?" Noriko asked.
"Yep! I can't wait to see that." Nana replied.
"Great! I'm sure this one will be big." Noriko finished before everyone went to their seats. Kakeru and Nana were seated just behind Noriko and her parents in the South Stand.
Before the game even started, all the Manchester United fans in the entire stadium were already waving their flags to create a party atmosphere worthy of a stadium packed to the rafters. Kakeru and Nana were already enjoying the party atmosphere so far, but neither was more excited than Noriko acting as the very vocal fan she is. Just a few minutes before the kickoff set for 4:00 PM, the players and support personnel from both teams as well as the 4 officials came out of the players' tunnel creating a guard of honor. At the very same time, a giant mosaic covering the lower tier of the Northern half of the seats was displaying the words "20 CHAMPIONS 13" to represent the number of total English League titles and Premier League titles respectively.
On the pitch, the stadium's public address announcer made the introduction everyone wanted to hear.
Alan Keegan: Old Trafford. In the season 2012-13, we left Old Trafford with expectation for the hopes and dreams. We came for the promise of greatness. We came to Old Trafford for more than just a game. We came to see United, the greatest football club in the world, claim back our rightful place as Champions of England. The Boss of the team did not let us down. We have some famous quotes and, of course, no more stronger than "A champion's someone who gets up when he can't"; and, of course, "Champions aren't made in the gyms; they're made from within themselves". Forged in industry, striving for glory, Old Trafford... The impossible dream... made possible by SIR ALEX FERGUSON!
In response, the vast majority of the 75,572 spectators in the stadium cheered in full voice for the man known as the Boss. As Sir Alex walked out onto the pitch under the cheers, an old 1968 Andy Williams song was played in the stadium and the lyrics really fitted the Boss' determination for the last 26 years and a half at the helm of the club.
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To fight... the unbeatable foe...
To reach... the unreachable star…
After the song ended, the fans cheered even louder and kept chanting to praise their club as champions. Amazed by the reception Sir Alex received, Kakeru and Nana could only imagine how it feels to be cheered by so many people at once.
"It would really be electrifying to play in front of this crowd in every home game." Kakeru said.
"You're right; it would be very special." Nana replied.
"It's thanks to Sir Alex that we have now such a happy crowd and such togetherness as a club. This really is the Theatre of Dreams." Noriko said.
The match in itself was a hardly fought contest for both teams. Nevertheless, the local team in red was the one getting the best chances. Kakeru and Nana were also delighted to see their fellow countryman, Shinji, in action as a starter in this special match. In the 39th minute, Javier made it 1-0 for Manchester United from 6 yards out with a loose ball that bounced off Swansea's captain on a long free kick. However, Swansea equalized at 1-1 in the 49th minute and picked up the momentum early in the second half with swift counterattacks. However, the score remained unchanged despite the momentum change.
In the 66th minute, a player who was a nugget of pure gold for the club finally left the Old Trafford pitch as a player for the last time. As the substitution was made, the fans gave a standing ovation to the ginger man who quickly became a fan favorite and a quality footballer many years ago. Nana could only applaud and feel goose bumps while watching 'Satnav' having his name sung by the United faithful.
"Paul Scholes is one of those players I really admired when I switched from being a striker to become a midfielder." Nana said.
"He is a true genius, Nana-chan." Noriko said.
"To think that I might have part of the task of filling his shoes..." Nana said.
"Don't worry with that. Just be yourself and become the only Nana Mishima. That would sound good enough to me." Kakeru said.
"He's right. If you make your own name, people may want to be compared to you instead of you comparing yourself with others." Noriko added.
"Thanks, guys." Nana replied.
"There's only one Nana Mishima... I would sure like the fans to be chanting that." Kakeru finished with a smile. Nana then blushed at the remark.
In the 87th minute, Manchester United earned a corner kick. When everyone moved into position, Robin took the long cross with the corner. The ball flew just ahead of Nemanja's head and bounced off the ground, but Rio was in position at the far post.
Martin Tyler: Van Persie takes the corner... Vidic, going in... FERDINAAAND!!!
With a powerful half-volley, Rio lodged the shot into the back of the net to give United a 2-1 lead late in the game, as this club has done it several times before.
Martin Tyler: It's his first goal for Manchester United for over 5 years, and... It's a timely one for the departing manager!
"YEAH!!! WELL PLAYED, RIO!" Kakeru shouted as he jumped off his seat in the middle of the frenzy. Nana also jumped off her seat and hugged Kakeru, who then also returned the embrace in celebration.
From the moment the goal was scored, the Manchester United fans started waving the red flags high and chanting without interruption. Meanwhile, the Swansea City team had no more gas left in the tank to orchestrate any reply as time winded down. Finally, the final whistle went after 3 minutes of injury time and the crowd roared in celebration of the Boss' final home victory. After Sir Alex walked onto the pitch and shook hands with all of his players, it was time for him to make one final address to the crowd. There was no script, but only words from the heart.
Sir Alex: "First of all... It's a thank you to Manchester United. Not just the directors, not just the medical staff, the coaching staff, the players, the supporters; it's all of you. You have been the most fantastic experience of my life. Thank you."
The crowd then cheered and applauded the first bit of speech.
Sir Alex: "I've been very fortunate of being able to manage some of the greatest players in the country while I'm at Manchester United. All these players today have represented our club the proper way. They won a championship in a fantastic fashion. Well done to the players."
The crowd gave another round of applause.
Sir Alex: "My retirement doesn't mean the end of my life with the club. I'll be able to enjoy watching them rather than suffer with them. But if you think about it: those last-minute goals, the comebacks, even the defeats are all part of this great football club of ours. It's just been an unbelievable experience for all of us, so thank you for that. I'd also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me. All the staff stood by me, the players stood by me. Your job now is to stand by our new manager; that is important."
The supporters gave a much louder round of cheers and applause this time before Sir Alex addressed directly to his players for the last time.
Sir Alex: "Before I start babbling, I just want to pay tribute to Paul Scholes, who retires today. He's an unbelievable... one of the greatest players this club has ever had and ever will have. Paul, we wish you a good retirement. Also I'd like to say one or two words... wish Darren Fletcher a speedy comeback to our club. The players... I wish the players every success in the future. You know how good you are. You know the jersey you're wearing, you know what it means to everyone here, and don't ever let yourselves down. The expectation is always there."
After a few more words addressed by Sir Alex to the members of his family sitting in the stands, the speech ended with loud cheers in response. For a short period of time, Sir Alex and his team left the pitch for the time the stadium's technical staff needed to set up the podium for the trophy presentation. When the 2 former Manchester United captains of the team that won the first title of the Premier League era carried the Premier League trophy to the podium, Kakeru's eyes were sparkling at the sight of one of the pieces of silverware he was hoping someday to play for as a professional player.
"This is it! It's the Premier League trophy." Kakeru said.
"Is it exactly as it was in your dream?" Nana asked.
"It is, really. It's a beautiful trophy." Kakeru replied.
After Sir Alex and all the players were awarded their medals, the trophy was handled to Nemanja and Patrice, who then handled to Sir Alex to be the first to hoist it on the day. As the trophy was hoisted, an explosion of firecrackers and a rain of red paper shreds marked the beginning of further celebrations.
Martin Tyler: Leaving on a high. The curtain comes down, but the trophy goes up. Going out in yet another blaze of glory. Going out on top as manager of the champions.
Applauding from their seats, Kakeru reflected on the historical moment he just witnessed as well as all of Sir Alex's words coming from the heart. 'Look around, Nii-chan: this will be where we'll live our dreams since we now know what we have to do to be part of this. One day, we will stand on that pitch and celebrate after winning a trophy.' Kakeru said in his thoughts.
"Kakeru. What are you thinking about?" Nana asked.
"About the future I want to have here." Kakeru replied.
"We know how good we are as well as what this shirt means to everyone here now. I'll honor this club in the best way possible and, hopefully, for a long time."
"I'll do this too and keep the happiness in this place, Seven. It's a promise." Kakeru finished.
Despite the overwhelming emotions surrounding the event, Kakeru and Nana were more determined than ever to succeed the tryout and become part of the main cast that would support the new manager in the near future. They both promised to make their mark in the next chapter of their playing careers and to make their dreams come true in the Theatre of Dreams.
Wednesday June 5
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
The rest of the tryout period went on until May 19, the final day of the season. Inspired by Sir Alex's words, Kakeru and Nana succeeded in impressing both Sir Alex and the first team players with a great display of dedication in training. In a matter of a couple of weeks following Sir Alex's decision, Miwa and M. Gill got the final version of the contracts ready. Although Sir Alex was in the last few weeks of his official tenure in the manager's office, he also worked his part in getting the contract terms sorted out. After successfully passing a medical evaluation 2 days ago, Kakeru and Nana were ready to sign their respective contracts.
It was convened that the signing would take place at the Japan Football Association's headquarters, also known as the JFA House, in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. The Japanese media were informed that the press conference would be held at 11:30 AM. After months of speculations, the media finally got the news of which team hired 2 of Japan's best prospects regardless of gender.
Kakeru and Nana met their mothers in Tokyo after both Mrs. Aizawa and Mrs. Mishima took a 65-minute train ride from Kamakura to Tokyo Station. JFA representatives were also present to escort everyone by car to the JFA building.
"So, how do you feel?" Nana asked.
"I have my nerves tingling a little bit. What about you?" Kakeru returned the question.
"All you need to do is to be natural when they take the pictures, make your statements, and give short answers to the media. That's what Noriko-chan said, remember." Mrs. Aizawa said.
"Thanks for the reminder, Mom." Kakeru replied.
Finally, everyone arrived to the right floor where Sir Alex and M. Gill were already waiting. Sir Alex was the first to greet the 2 young Japanese players: "Welcome to both of you on this special day."
"Congratulations." M. Gill added.
"Thank you, Sir Alex, Thank you, M. Gill. We're really happy to make the big step today." Kakeru replied.
"It will be kind of strange for us not to call you 'Boss' anymore since you asked it to all the players, Sir Alex." Nana added.
"I know, Nana: I've been called that way for 26 and a half years at the club, but it had to be done to remind everyone that there will be a new person officially in charge from the first day of July. Nonetheless, it's not like I'm going far away for good. I'm still a director and a club ambassador at Manchester United." Sir Alex said.
"You're right, Sir Alex. We'll honor what you said in your final speech at Old Trafford a few weeks ago." Kakeru replied.
"Well, it's time to make this contract signing official and then unveil you for the Japanese media who are eagerly waiting for you at the press conference." M. Gill said.
"Let's make this a reality, Seven." Kakeru said.
"Yep, let's go!" Nana replied.
Kakeru, Nana, their mothers, Miwa and the Manchester United representatives went into a meeting room inside the JFA House building. Since Kakeru and Nana were still minors according to Japanese laws, their mothers were also asked to sign a few documents allowing their children to sign on their respective contracts. Finally with a stroke of a pen, Kakeru and Nana signed their contracts, one copy in English and one copy in Japanese for each.
For the occasion, 2 photographers working for Manchester United took pictures of the event. First, Kakeru and Nana alongside M. Gill as the photo of the contract signing was taken. Then, the 2 newly signed players were photographed a few times only by themselves. Finally for the last set of pictures, Mrs. Aizawa, Mrs. Mishima and Miwa came into the frame.
After the photo session of the contract signing, Kakeru, Nana and M. Gill walked to the press conference room where several Japanese reporters and photographers were already waiting. Before the press conference started, Kakeru and Nana were presented the club's new red shirts with their last names printed in the back for the photo. The Japanese photographers took several pictures of Kakeru and Nana, showing their best smiles and holding their respective shirts for the headlines in the following day's sports columns and front pages in Japan. Among the VIPs who were attending the press conference without being involved in it, Sir Alex, Araki, Mai and Taeko were there.
"Shinshi shukujo no minasama, konnichiwa (Ladies and Gentlemen, hello). This is a great day for Manchester United Football Club. We are proud to announce that Kakeru Aizawa and Nana Mishima signed their first professional contracts today for Manchester United. In accordance to the club's policy, the terms of the contracts will remain undisclosed. Both players went to the hospital on Monday for medical examinations and successfully passed their medical tests as required before the signing. Our club always believed in building teams with young players and the tradition still remains strong. Kakeru and Nana are both very gifted young players, and both should fit in well at Manchester United for many years to come. Thank you." M. Gill made the opening statement before he put an earphone in his ear to listen the English translation of the questions and comments in Japanese.
"Kakeru-kun." Miwa told him to begin his opening statement.
"Konnichiwa, people of the media and VIPs. I'd like to start by thanking all my teammates at Enoshima High School and Iwaki-sensei for the 3 wonderful years I spent with them. I only have great memories of my high school years and I will always carry those memories with me as a big positive. I'd also like to thank everyone who helped us in preparation for the tryout which eventually led to this contract signing. Now if you look forward, it is a massive challenge. Nonetheless, I'm proud to be a part of Manchester United and I'm thankful to the club for showing faith in me for the future. This is a dream come true and I look forward to spread my wings and become someday a key player for a club that I admired for years now. Thank you." Kakeru made his own opening statement.
"Nana-san." Miwa said.
"Konnichiwa. I also want to thank Enoshima High School and Iwaki-sensei for giving me the opportunity to enjoy playing in a very fun environment and to test myself against male players for the last 3 years. I'd also like to thank the JFA, for showing their faith when they asked me to become a representative for Nadeshiko Japan 3 years ago, and also the people involved in our training during the month of April prior to the tryout in Manchester. Now, this is a big challenge for me as no other woman ever played at professional level against men. Still, Manchester United have shown a great deal of trust in my skills and attitude. I look forward to become even better under the popular red shirt and to show that women can perform alongside men. Thank you." Nana made her own statement.
From there, the media asked several questions to Kakeru, Nana and M. Gill about what led to their final choice, how they would cope with life in England, and also about FIFA's possible reaction against Nana's signing for a traditionally all-male club. The 3 Manchester United representatives on the podium gave confident answers to all the questions. In less than 15 minutes, the press conference came near its conclusion.
"Before we conclude, Kakeru Aizawa would like to tell everyone on behalf of Nana Mishima and himself what are their intentions by accepting their new challenge at Manchester United." Miwa told the media in the room before she let Kakeru speak.
"Our dream is and has always been to help Japan win the World Cup someday, either in the men's competition for the first time or in the women's competition again. In order to achieve that, as my former sensei would say, we young players have to aim for bigger individual goals in the long term. One of the biggest long-term individual goals for any player is to play with and against the best in the world, both for club and country, with hopes of becoming as good as they are. While we'll strive for glory at Manchester United, this will also be our way to prepare ourselves for the World Cup. If Japanese players keep aiming ever higher, this World Cup dream will become a reality." Kakeru finished.
Finally, the press conference ended upon the final message echoing what Kakeru was told on his first day in high school. After all, Coach Iwaki was the one who taught Kakeru and Nana to always aim higher, and to never stop improving themselves as players in order to achieve that goal.
Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan
Later in the early evening, the Aizawas and the Mishimas gathered together on their way for a dinner in a restaurant. It was a perfect occasion to celebrate the signing of the professional contracts that happened a few hours earlier. On the way, Kakeru and Nana were talking about messages from their friends since the signing became public knowledge.
"Looks like you got plenty of messages since noon. Who have you got?" Kakeru asked.
"I’ve got congratulations messages from all of my Nadeshiko Japan teammates and even friends from California. What about you?" Nana replied.
"I have plenty of my own too. Yusuke, Hibino, Kaoru, Kouta, Takase and all the guys on the current Enoshima team congratulated me. Asuka-san, Takajo-san and other teammates on the U-21 Japan National Team also congratulated both of us. Did we get something from Noriko-chan?"
"She found a nice apartment in a suburban area named West Didsbury, Kakeru. She wrote that she will send us the pictures so we can tell her if this will do." Nana replied. The fact was that Noriko moved back to Manchester in May and was reunited with her parents as her secondary education was done.
"Nice to know about it, Seven." Kakeru replied.
"Where are we going, Mom?" Mito asked.
"We're going to a restaurant that is not far from your school. They're serving very good yakisoba noodles from what I've heard." Mrs. Aizawa replied.
"It will be kinda strange to have dinner there." Kakeru said.
"Why is that, Kake-nii?" Mito asked.
"Seven and I were supposed to join the team for one last lunch together in that restaurant on Graduation Day, back in March. It was just seconds before I was summoned by Iwaki-sensei and met Sir Alex just after. We were so surprised and shocked by the pre-contract offer that we declined the invitation for lunch." Kakeru replied.
"I know it will be very difficult to have everyone around on one occasion since we went our separate ways. Still, I'm sure they would want us to enjoy this moment." Nana said.
"You're right, Seven. I'm just putting too much thought into this."
"It's OK, Kakeru. The only thing you need to think about is to enjoy the occasion." Nana said as she grabbed Kakeru's hand for the rest of the walk. Finally, the group arrived at the restaurant, but neither Kakeru nor Nana expected what they were about to see.
"SURPRISE!" several voices greeted Kakeru and Nana.
"What?" Kakeru and Nana asked at the same time.
All of Kakeru's teammates at Enoshima High School and long-time friends were part of the welcoming party. Also, Enoshima alumni Makoto, Ryoma, Araki, Coach Iwaki and Ayaka were in the crowd greeting Kakeru and Nana. Everyone was there to celebrate this special day.
"You thought we'd not make it here to celebrate with you?" Araki said.
"But how did you know we'd be here?" Kakeru asked in return.
"Well, let's say that your mom and Mito-chan wanted everyone to make up for the team lunch you declined after the graduation ceremony in March for the reasons we all know." Araki replied.
"We haven't had a proper party with all of our friends back then, so we all said to ourselves that it would be a perfect occasion to do this." Kaoru added.
"You organized all of this for us, everyone?" Nana asked.
"Of course, Nana-chan. We thought about everything from the moment the signing became imminent. The more the merrier, as always." Mrs. Aizawa replied.
"My 2 best former students are the stars today. Ayaka and I were not going to miss such an opportunity." Coach Iwaki spoke for him and Dr. Mine.
"This is quite an accomplishment by both of you. After all, you two are the first among all of us who earned professional contracts in Europe, especially with a big club." Yusuke said.
"You have come a very long way since the time when you were the boy who was afraid of using his left foot, Kakeru. Congratulations, man!" Koichi said.
"Thanks. So are we starting now?" Kakeru asked.
"It looks like we are still missing someone." Mito replied.
"Am I late?" Mai asked as she arrived behind Kakeru and Nana.
"No. You arrived just in time, Mai-chan." Mito replied.
"Hey, Mai-chan! I thought you went back to Kobe." Nana said.
"Next training session is only on Friday. I'm off the hook for tonight."
"I'm glad you made it here." Nana said as she hugged Mai.
Meanwhile, Kouta was looking at Mai with his usual flirty eyes until he immediately ran towards her. "Wow! MAI-CHAN! I missed you..."
Before Kouta could put his hands on Mai, the Japanese blonde girl used her quickness to evade the flirty young man, who then ended up flying into a table nearby. Everyone among the party guests laughed at the incident. "Well, some things sure haven't changed in the last 3 years." Kaoru said.
"This really means a lot for us that you all came here to celebrate this day and make up for last time. We are fortunate to have such great support from you, guys, for over the last 3 years. Thank you." Kakeru said at the same time Nana was still holding his hand.
"Well, the stars of the night and everyone else are here. Let's get this party going!" Araki exclaimed.
"Make sure to watch your weight if you don't want your coach to bench you, Araki-san." Nana said jokingly.
"I've not been overweight for more than 2 years. Give me a break, Nana-chan."
Following a few more laughs, everyone started making their orders for dinner. Later in the evening, everyone went out for a karaoke night as well. It was a perfect moment for adults and youngsters alike to have fun one last time as a group before a long time. For Kakeru and Nana, it was a fitting end to a special day.
Sunday July 28
Narita International Airport, Chiba, Japan
The remainder of the spring semester at the TMU went down quite quickly for both Kakeru and Nana. Nevertheless, both finished their final examinations with a sense of accomplishment as the grades were good despite all the attention they got as future United players. At some point in the middle of July, FIFA was forced to yield after a large majority of European clubs and media from all 4 corners of the world voiced heavy criticism against the usual statement against mixed-gender teams. M. Gill was right: FIFA could not keep holding their position from the moment a big club is making the step of signing a female player to join an all-male squad with the serious intent of giving her quality minutes on the pitch. For all female footballers hoping to break the gender barrier at club level, it was a major victory. With the legal battle now behind, Nana could now focus her attention on her performance whenever she has both feet on the pitch.
On July 28, it was the day Kakeru and Nana would take the one-way flight to Manchester and join the other half of the squad that stayed in England instead of going on the global tour. At Narita Airport, the Aizawas, the Mishimas, Kakeru's best friends and the current players from Enoshima High School's soccer club came to see Kakeru and Nana off. At the same time, a few photojournalists and cameramen were also there to witness the departure.
"When is your flight scheduled to leave?" Araki asked.
"The flight is going to take off at 11:25 AM. After a short stop in London, we'll arrive in Manchester after flying for 15 hours." Kakeru replied.
"I wish I can become a player for a European club like you on one day, Kakeru." Yusuke said.
"More European clubs are looking at Japanese players more seriously, Yusuke. One day, it may be your turn and I know you would do well." Kakeru replied as he gave Yusuke a high five handshake.
"Good luck in England, you two." Kouta said.
"Thanks. Don't get too caught up flirting with girls if you want to avoid accidents." Kakeru replied.
"Geez... Easy for you to say that when you are in the middle of happiness with Nana-chan as your partner on and off the pitch, Kakeru."
"Hope to see you soon with the National Team, Kakeru." Araki said.
"I look forward to it, Araki-san."
After shaking hands with all of their friends and former teammates, it was time for Kakeru and Nana to say goodbye to their respective families. Mito couldn't hold her tears back any longer.
"Make sure you do well over there, Kake-nii, Seven. I will really miss both of you." Mito said as she hugged both Kakeru and Nana.
"We will miss you too, but we will make a name of ourselves. It's a promise." Kakeru replied.
"Someday, we'll take you to Manchester to see us play at Old Trafford." Nana added.
"Just remember to have fun even when you go through difficult times, son." M. Aizawa said.
"By making it there, we are already very proud of you, Kakeru." Mrs. Aizawa added.
Then, Kakeru hugged his mother and his father. Meanwhile, Nana's parents did the same with their daughter. After the last few hugs, Kakeru and Nana took off towards the security checkpoint. Just before they went past the checkpoint, Kakeru and Nana's friends and respective families shouted: "HAVE FUN OVER THERE, ALL THE WAY!"
Kakeru and Nana turned around with a smile and raised their thumbs up into the sky in response to the last encouragement phrase.
"Here we go, Kakeru." Nana said with a smile.
"Let's go, Seven!" Kakeru replied.
On their way towards the terminal's departure area, Kakeru and Nana held each other's hand as they walked together towards a new life. As everyone saw the British Airways plane take off towards England, friends and family members alike wished for the best knowing this was only the beginning of a thrilling adventure filled with wonders for Kakeru and Nana.