Revolution II

“I can’t forget who I am” | Revs II GK coach Yuta Nomura reflects on AAPI Heritage Month

5_23_24 Yuta Nomura and Max Weinstein

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a chance for everyone to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander cultures and to honor the contributions of AAPI individuals in all walks of life. This Saturday’s match with New York City FC will also be the Revolution’s inaugural AAPI Heritage Night, complete with pre-game cultural activities in the Fan Zone and a halftime performance from Gund Kwok, the first Asian Women's Lion & Dragon Dance Troupe in the United States, as we salute the broad array of AAPI cultures and history represented across New England.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, spoke with Yuta Nomura, goalkeeper coach for New England Revolution II and a native of Tokyo, Japan who played soccer both in the United States and Sweden and coached at the collegiate level before coming to Foxborough. We asked him about what his Japanese heritage means to him, the importance of AAPI Heritage Month, and how the international game of soccer has allowed him to share his culture and experience with others.

Naturally, Nomura considered his heritage a crucial part of his identity, saying that his Japanese roots were something he took with him no matter where in the world he went.

“It’s huge for me, especially because that’s where I grew up,” Nomura said. “All my family and friends are back home. So, I can’t forget who I am as an Asian and Japanese person.”

5_23_24 Yuta Nomura training

Nomura, who first came to the U.S. more than a decade ago, said that it took time to adjust to being away from his family, but that he came to cultivate new connections as time went on.

“I got used to it,” he said of being away from home. “When I moved to the United States first, which was 2011 when I went to college, I had a lot of culture shock and homesickness. But I think obviously over time – it’s been 12, 13 years now since I left home, so it’s not really affecting anything. Knowing that I have family back home, I can go home any time I want. I have a beautiful wife here, and I have a daughter now, so my life is here in the States.”

In addition to having played and coached across different parts of the country, from Arkansas to Kentucky to Michigan, Nomura played professionally for Swedish side BK Olympic from 2017 to 2018. He said that being able to play and coach internationally has not only allowed him to share his culture with others, but also opened his eyes to other cultures and styles of soccer that he might not have otherwise known.

“If I had stayed in Japan, I probably wouldn’t have seen other cultures, or what the rest of the world does,” Nomura said. “If I didn’t go to Sweden, to Europe, to play, I wouldn’t know what kind of standard they have in Europe. Now I can bring [that knowledge] over to my work environment.”

He added that having gotten that exposure and experience helped him to work better alongside Revolution first team goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock, who hails from the United Kingdom and himself played at the top level in England for a number of years.

“Knowing that Kevin Hitchcock is English and working alongside him, now I get his English work environment, his English way of approach to coaching," Nomura said. "So, I think it opens your eyes so much.”

5_23_24 Yuta Nomura training group

Unfortunately, one of the reasons it’s so important to take dedicated time to recognize AAPI heritage and history is because the fight against discrimination never stops, whether it’s in the workplace, on the field, or just in everyday life. Nomura said he had experienced firsthand the higher standards that people of color often face in professional environments.

“I can’t do the same work that anyone else does, because I have to be better than someone else,” he said. “So, there’s always pressure being Asian, Japanese, and also foreign. So, for me it’s always being proud to be here, but also having a lot of pressure on me, as well.”

Nomura went on to say that it was for these very reasons that observances like AAPI Heritage Month and celebrations like the Revolution’s upcoming AAPI Heritage Night, as well as the recognition of all forms of cultural diversity, are so important.

“In any working environment there’s always Asian, Black, White, African, different cultures – in every work environment, those people are there,” he said. “Now, specifically with the spotlight on Asians, I think it’s a huge step. People get to know who these guys are, what kind of background they have. I think it’s important to have those months and days. Hopefully we don’t have to do it in the future. But I think it’s important to have this month so that people get recognition.”

Revs II will be in action on Sunday against NYCFC II, but not before the first team faces the Blues for the second time this season, this time at home. Whatever happens on the field, the entire Revolution organization is proud to be able to lift up AAPI culture – on Saturday, throughout the month of May, and all year round.