Prologue - A Dream :Previous Chapter«Home Page»Next Chapter: Start of Pre-Season

Clinical Clerkship, A New Teammate

Following the previous season, Kakeru was supposed to take part in the World Cup for Japan. However, an injury sustained in the last preparation match prevented him from taking part in the tournament. Although the turn of events was very unfortunate for Kakeru, who saw Japan fall in the round of 16, he was able to cope with Nana's help. During the time when Kakeru was recovering in Japan, he and Nana were carrying on with their lives as medical students during summer.

In Japan, the undergraduate curriculum in medical school usually takes 6 years before the student proceeds into full specialization in a particular field of interest. For the first year, students spend more time on general liberal arts such as psychology, law, medical history, physics, chemistry, and biology. In years 2 and 3, the curriculum begins to specialize into medicine-based courses such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and immunology. In years 3 and 4, courses are organized around specialties such as microbiology, pharmacology, pathology, cardiovascular medicine, neurology, etc.

Although it is widely known that Japanese medical students spend lots of time devoting to extracurricular activities during the first 4 years, and that passing class assessments doesn't take that much effort despite having 10-15 classes per term, some people believed that neither Kakeru nor Nana would be able to complete their classes quickly enough nor do well enough in those classes. Nevertheless, the distance education system allowed both Kakeru and Nana to have access to lectures ahead of time while dealing with the constraints imposed by training sessions and other professional obligations. With excellent marks, Kakeru and Nana have been both recognized as model students as well as quality professional athletes.

Since Kakeru and Nana successfully passed the mandatory objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) and the computer-based test (CBT), both Japanese players were cleared to proceed into the 2-year clinical clerkship. By definition, the clinical clerkship is the student's first ward experience that includes patient interaction and clinical teaching at the bedside. However, more emphasis is put on the student to perform literature reviews, write weekly reports on patients' medical conditions, attend lectures, and observe rather than actively participate in clinical care. Nevertheless, the undergraduate program's clinical clerkship allows medical students to rotate between all the hospital's departments while spending between 1 and 4 weeks in each department, around 8 hours a day.

Kakeru and Nana's academic path took them to the Tokyo Medical University Hospital in Shinjuku as the workplace for their clinical clerkship during summer until training camp.

Tuesday July 17

7:50 AM

On every morning since Kakeru and Nana returned to Japan for their time as clinical clerks during summer, both usually leave their apartment in Toshima-ku, Tokyo at 7:25 AM for a 20-minute drive to Tokyo Medical University Hospital. At the hospital, Kakeru and Nana already got changed, and wore their lab coats on when they were greeted by fellow medical students assigned to the same hospital.

"Well, well. The married couple is in the house." fellow medical student Hikaru Wakahisa said before other male students chuckled at the comment.

Kakeru sighed, and replied: "Seriously, Hikaru. You're never tired of teasing us? Wait until you find a woman of your own."

"Me? I'm not settling down for one woman just yet. Like my last name says, I wanna stay forever young." Hikaru replied before he whispered to Kakeru: "Besides, one big advantage of becoming a doctor is that it's easy to flirt with nurses after you earn the title of doctor."

"OK, Hikaru. It's about time we have a talk about your morals in private." a female medical student named Chisa Miyama said as she sneaked behind Hikaru, who was sweating big when he heard Chisa's voice.

"O... O... Ohayou, Chisa." Hikaru stammered.

"Good timing, Chisa-chan." Nana said.

"Anytime, Nana-chan. I will take care of this idiot before he does something stupid." Chisa replied as she dragged Hikaru away.

"Hikaru loves medicine, and knows when to be serious on the job. Yet he reminds me a lot of Kouta sometimes." Kakeru said.

"He sure does. A very tight leash will be quite needed by any woman who wants to keep him all for herself." Nana replied.

"That's for sure." Kakeru replied with chuckles in between before he looked at his watch. "Oh, we have to go now. The nephrology department is waiting for us."

"Let's go." Nana finished.

Then Kakeru and Nana walked their way to the nephrology department where they were joined by the hospital's nephrologists and residents assigned to the department. After a morning meeting to discuss about the patients in the department, it was time to conduct morning rounds. In this case, it was the weekly bedside teaching round.

Following the faculty nephrologist and 2 first-year residents, Kakeru and Nana observed the evaluation procedures on a few inpatients. At one point, the group came to observe the evaluation of a 10-year-old boy who was admitted with pyelonephritis around a week ago. For a student in a clinical clerkship setting, the main task was to take notes in order to know each patient well enough to be able to answer precise questions about each patient.

"Okay, now breathe normally." the nephrologist said as he put his stethoscope on the boy's back to hear his lungs breathing.

"Very well. Let me check your temperature." the nephrologist said as he put the ear thermometer in the boy's ear, and then got the result within a second. After the temperature check, the nephrologist checked the boy's blood pressure. "It's good. The nurse will come soon with the injection. Still, things are improving for you so far."

Meanwhile, Kakeru wrote the data in the evaluation form. "Aizawa-sensei. I didn't ask it before, but are you the same Kakeru Aizawa, the soccer player?" the boy asked after he turned his gaze towards Kakeru.

"I'm not a doctor yet, but I am the same guy. Just call me the way you want to, Toshio-kun." Kakeru replied with a smile.

"How can you work like a doctor, and play soccer at the same time?" Toshio asked.

"Let's say that some people helped me to do it. Still, there's nothing impossible, not even when you love doing more than one thing."

"Will you play in Yokohama? I heard there's a match coming."

"The coach will decide after the training sessions." Kakeru said.

Then a nurse came in as it was time for Toshio to receive an injection with antibiotics. Toshio sighed as he was not too happy about it.

"I hate needles." Toshio mumbled.

"Don't worry, Toshio-kun. Things will get better by the time you won't need injections any longer." Kakeru said. "I'll try my best to be on the pitch in Yokohama, and score a goal for you."

"Cool! Thank you, Kakeru-san."

"You are a fighter. Always remember that." Kakeru finished as he and Toshio gave a mutual fist bump to bid goodbye.

"You are good in interacting with patients, Aizawa-kun." the supervising nephrologist said.

"Thank you, Sensei." Kakeru replied with a tone transpiring a reluctance to accept the praise.

"No, I really mean it. Adding that to your learning ability, I think you will make a fine doctor after your career as a player, regardless of your future specialty. Take it as a blessing."

After finishing the morning rounds, Kakeru and Nana attended a few mini-lectures on clinical nephrology cases until noon. At noon, Kakeru and Nana were joined by Hikaru, Chisa, other medical students, and residents in the hospital's restaurant for lunch. It was also usually the time to talk about everything, especially soccer and life in England - 2 subjects Hikaru and Chisa were particularly interested in.

"So... What's the plan for the pre-season?" Hikaru asked. "It's supposed to start very soon."

"I haven't received a word yet, but we aim to get on the pitch for a few minutes in the game against Yokohama F. Marinos on the 25th, and then increase the number of minutes in other matches." Kakeru replied.

"It will be like playing at home if any, I guess." another medical student said.

"It will, Daisuke-san. Marinos are the only J-League Division 1 team from the Kanagawa prefecture." Nana replied.

"But how is it that you two are not training with the Manchester United team yet?" another medical student, a young man named Shunsuke, asked.

"It was something that was planned long ago, Shunsuke-san. United showed a lot of class by supporting Nana and I in our medical studies. They know there's always the summer break coming at this time of the year, so we can catch up with them."

"Would that mean you fall behind in training?" Chisa asked.

"Only in terms of finding the chemistry back with old and new teammates, but that usually takes a few games. Otherwise, we both have specific training programs prepared by the club for each summer, so we always keep good fitness." Nana replied.

"How will you keep up with clinical clerkship when you'll get back to England?" Chisa asked.

"The University of Manchester already prepared a schedule where we will spend time at hospitals affiliated with the University. It will be similar to the 3rd/4th year of British medical school since they spend less time on learning liberal arts. Because of time constraints going with morning training, it will be quite some stretch to fit hours at the hospital even if we include afternoon and some evening hours." Kakeru replied.

"However, conference and lecture material will be sent in advance whenever possible. Very helpful." Nana added.

“What is it like to live in Manchester? Being a soccer star, I guess girls are all over you, Kakeru." Hikaru asked.

"Hikaru, that's out of order." Chisa frowned.

"Dropping the subject of girls, it's a really nice city to live in. Quiet, relaxing... everything's there to keep us focused on what we do. When it comes to soccer, the people are passionate. Overall, it's not a problem." Kakeru replied.

"Are you very involved in the community, Kakeru?" Shunsuke asked.

"Quite a lot, yes. I love that: helping the neighborhood, donating to hospitals for medical equipment and research, playing with kids... everything involving common people."

"That's good. As long as you two don't change who you are, everything will be fine." Chisa said.

"Being medical students helps us keeping our feet down to Earth. Still, thanks for the take-home message." Kakeru replied.

"Nice one indeed, Chisa-chan. Both of us will pull out the best season of our lives with that in mind." Nana added.

"We'll all look forward to that." Hikaru finished with a smile.

Between 1:00 PM and around 5:00 PM, Kakeru and Nana were able to observe an entire hemodialysis procedure of another patient. Finally, they spent the rest of the time reading reports on patients' electrolyte levels, and adding the information to their written weekly reports on the patients they were assigned with.

6:10 PM

When Kakeru and Nana left their apartment in the morning, they also had their equipment bags stocked in the trunk of their Toyota Aqua so they could drive to Komazawa Olympic Park after their time at the hospital for some training. There was always a risk that paparazzi would hound Kakeru and Nana in such a public place, especially since their engagement became public. In general, most of the media accepted the couple's plea for privacy bar for very few rebels working for Japanese tabloids. Nevertheless, Kakeru and Nana had a much easier ride compared to most Japanese celebrities, mainly because of the couple’s commitment to live a rather normal life despite their acquired fame.

The training session usually consists of either normal drills on the pitch or a workout in the gym according to the summer training program prescribed by United's fitness coaches. By the time Kakeru and Nana got dressed in full kit, and arrived at the auxiliary training field at 5:40 PM, there were students from the Komazawa University men's soccer club already warming up. After some stretching work and some passing drills for a total of 30 minutes, Kakeru and Nana moved towards the free kick training end of the pitch along with a few other Komazawa University players.

"Hey, Mishima-san. You wanna go first?" a Komazawa player asked.

"My pleasure, Tanaka-san." Nana replied before she walked towards a line of 10 footballs ready for the free kick drill within 25 yards from goal.

'This should be interesting.' Kakeru thought.

On every attempt Nana took, she made her run almost from a few yards at 45 degrees to the left side of the ball before she hit it with her right foot. On the moment she made contact with the ball, her left ankle bent down a little so it would allow her to strike the ball from underneath it. Also, her body angle was almost at 45 degrees, which allowed her to wrap her right foot around the ball, and to create a topspin effect on the ball. Each shot flew quickly around or over the dummy wall before dipping in mid-air towards the goal. Out of 10 attempts, 7 shots ended up into either top corner of the goal while one out of the remaining 3 hit the inside of the bottom low corner.

"Seven out of 10 times in the top corners... I'm glad she's not playing against us. Goalkeepers would have a hard time predicting that kind of accurate shot." another Komazawa player said.

"And those shots are full of venom as well. Did you learn that from watching DVDs of David Beckham or what? I can see the inspiration there." Tanaka asked Nana.

"I did. I only practiced that in my spare time when I was not yet a professional, but I only picked up working more seriously on it in training since I joined United. 'Becks' showed me a few extra tips when I attended a soccer clinic he hosted 3 years ago."

"It looks very close to the original thing now, Seven." Kakeru said.

"Thanks. Now show me what you've got, Kakeru."

Without further due, Kakeru lined up the 10 balls before he took free kicks of his own. Like most players who take free kicks nowadays, Kakeru also tried emulating the Beckham method. Obviously not as successful as Nana was, Kakeru managed to hit the goal 6 times out of 10, of which 4 shots hit the top corners.

“Not bad at all, Kakeru.”

"The dip on my shots wasn't as good, so I won’t make a living on free kicks anyway. You're the dead ball specialist, Seven. I can't wait to see your technique in action." Kakeru replied to Nana with a smile.

"Shooting free kicks and corners is far from easy. It takes lots of work." one of the Komazawa players said.

"You think you can become the designated shooter at the big club with that, Mishima-san? I think you have quite a killer free kick there." another Komazawa player said.

"We'll see what the Manchester United manager will say about that." Nana replied. "Your turn, guys."

"With 7 out of 10 in the top corners, and 8 out of 10 on target in total, this is going to be hard to beat." Tanaka said before he went on.

"Bend it like Beckham, they say." Kakeru finished.

And so the Komazawa players took their free kicks. None of them succeeded more than 5 shots out of 10 on goal.

"I guess we won't really cut it with such success ratio." Tanaka said.

"It's not a matter of pure skill, Tanaka-san. Coaches have been telling us that everything comes out of hours and hours of practice. Trust me: it works depending on what you concentrate your energy." Kakeru replied.

"He's right. Sometimes, it only takes one extra hour of training after a normal session on each single day for some time to get something right." Nana added.

"I'll take note of that." Tanaka replied. "Are you in for a match, next?"

"Sure do." Kakeru and Nana replied altogether.

After the drill, the players moved in for an 11-a-side match, of which Kakeru and Nana enjoyed the action of a simulated match for 30 minutes. After the simulated match, a few players stayed behind for extra practice time on the training field although the main session was officially over. On that occasion, Kakeru and Nana worked on testing their shooting quality on pace and accuracy from 12 yards. They knew that working on penalty kicks would always come in handy in due time.

8:50 PM

After dinner back at the apartment at Toshima-ku, Kakeru was reading through sports news on his laptop to see if something was about to change the landscape in the Premier League and other European Leagues. As he scrolled down the headlines about player transfers, one article caught his attention in particular.

"Nana, look at this." Kakeru said.

"What is it?"

"Arsenal F.C. signed Patrick Jenpa for 50 million euros. That means we must expect a more serious challenge from them for next season."

"Yeah. They made so many changes during the summer. Now that they have signed both Araki-san and Jenpa, I can only imagine what kind of damage these two can do together." Nana said.

"The media are right to call Jenpa the most lethal African-born striker since Didier Drogba. Just last season alone, he scored 45 goals in all competitions for his club in France. His presence is going to be a pain for our defenders on top of the fact that they also have Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as their other attacking options." Kakeru added.

"We still have Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sánchez, and, most importantly, the Knight in red. I think we'll be alright if the Gunners want to fight fire with fire." Nana replied as she hugged Kakeru from behind. "Paul Pogba and I can take care of creating chances from midfield."

"Thanks. Sometimes I forget how good and well surrounded I am."

"Other news?" Nana asked.

"Hibino signed a 4-year extension with Ajax Amsterdam despite all the offers Ajax received for him." Kakeru replied.

"Good for him then."

"Sure. He told me how he grew very fond of Amsterdam when he went there to receive specialized treatment after that injury in elementary school. I guess it was natural for him to commit into a long-term deal with them."

"Anything linked with our team so far?" Nana asked.

"There are rumors here and there all around Europe about players joining us, but nothing concrete.” Kakeru replied.

"I see. We are still looking for another midfielder who can shield the back 4, and yet provide a good first pass on counterattacks better than anyone we have at the moment." Nana said.

"We will see what will happen among transfers. When it comes down to it, I hope our club will do the right thing."

Then Kakeru went back to reading medical articles that would help him for the last few days in the nephrology department. A little before 10:00 PM, Kakeru received an unexpected incoming call from Yusuke through Skype.

"Hello, Yusuke."

"I hope I’m not disturbing you." Yusuke said.

"No, it's fine. Why are you calling in this late?"

"Sorry. I'm calling from Europe, so it's still in the afternoon here."

"Where in Europe?" Kakeru asked.

"I'm keeping it a surprise for now. I wanted to tell you, Kakeru and Nana: I got transferred to a club in Europe."

"Oh, that's great! Is it Borussia Dortmund? You spent a few years in their academy after all." Nana asked.

"Nope, but I thought about it before my new club came in the picture. It must be almost 10:00 PM in Japan, right?" Yusuke asked.

"Yeah, but why?" Kakeru returned the question.

"Watch the news on sports channels for starters. There's your answer."

Without any further due, Kakeru tuned in a live TV stream as the broadcast was starting. Before long, Kakeru and Nana understood that the main topic of the day was about Yusuke's high-profile transfer to a big European club.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to tonight's edition of Sports News. Yokohama F. Marinos proceeded to a major player out-transfer tonight. The reigning J-League champions announced on the club's official website that a transfer deal was agreed with English Premier League champions Manchester United for central midfielder Yusuke Saeki. Neither Marinos nor Manchester United disclosed the terms of the transfer agreement. However, sources indicate that the transfer fee is estimated to ¥1.6 billion, which would break the record fee for a player transferred out of the J-League up to this day. Saeki will be the 4th Japanese-born player in the history of Manchester United." the TV host announced as a video was showing Yusuke holding the red shirt with only 'SAEKI' printed in the back of it. He was standing alongside United's chief executive in Carrington.

"No kidding! He really signed with us." Nana exclaimed.

Astonished, Kakeru then went back to his laptop, and used a quick currency converter to see how much money that amount was in euros. When the amount was shown, Kakeru went back to his long-distance conversation with Yusuke.

"Did United really pay over 12.3 million euros to Marinos just for you?" Kakeru asked.

"Yep! United's representatives told that they scouted me for the past 2 years before they made their decision. That was the time when I grew much stronger in Yokohama after a bad spell in Dortmund."

"How did you manage to get the transfer done? I've heard that it's very rare for J-League players to sign in Europe in the summer transfer window." Nana asked.

"And Marinos are partially owned by our rivals, Manchester City. How did the deal manage to go through?" Kakeru also asked.

"To be honest, I didn't think too much about leaving Yokohama. But when I heard that United came in the picture, I guess everyone, including myself, were surprised. Manchester City may own a number shares in the club, but the Japanese majority among shareholders were probably OK with the transfer. I also thought about it, and I felt that the offer was too attractive for me to refuse. So we accepted the deal after a number of secret talks, I passed a medical in Manchester yesterday, and I spent time discovering the facilities in Carrington and at Old Trafford. I will take a plane back to Japan tomorrow."

"I was talking with Nana about our needs for new players, but I never thought our club would look for one in Japan. We heard nothing about a possible transfer here." Kakeru said.

"I know. The deal was conducted very secretly, and most people were kept in the dark about this. Everything went very smoothly to say the least, and I'm glad it went that way. When the J-League's mid-season transfer window opened on Monday, I was cleared to fly to Manchester, and sort a few personal terms before I signed the contract."

"I guess a number of people in the Kanagawa prefecture are disappointed since you were kinda like the local poster boy for Marinos." Nana said.

"I already sent an open letter to Yokohama F. Marinos fans through all media outlets in Japan. I thanked everyone for their support and help in breathing new life to my career. Thanks to them, I have become a better and more consistent player in the last few years so that day would finally come. So far, replies on social media have been very positive." Yusuke replied.

"I'm glad to hear it, Yusuke." Kakeru said. "So when are you expected to play for the first time as a Manchester United player?"

"In the second half of the friendly match between Yokohama and United. I play the first half as a Marino, and then the second half as a Red Devil."

"I see. It will stand like a testimonial match for you, am I right?" Nana asked.

"You got that right, Nana. It will be a very emotional moment for me."

"I look forward to it, Yusuke." Kakeru said.

"Me too. See you in Yokohama, you two." Yusuke replied.

"See you then... and welcome to Manchester United officially." Kakeru finished before ending the live conversation on Skype.

"Wow! He will have our friend Michael Carrick as his coach and mentor straight away!" Nana exclaimed.

"I know. Can you believe it? We have Yusuke on the team!" Kakeru said as he embraced Nana with a mutual feeling of joy on their faces, knowing that the upcoming season will be even more enjoyable with their old friend now being a part of their club.

Prologue - A Dream :Previous Chapter«Home Page»Next Chapter: Start of Pre-Season