Traveling in a pandemic: Duluth Marshall's Masaki Hirata arrives from Japan |

Traveling in a pandemic: Duluth Marshall's Masaki Hirata arrives from Japan

Alicia Tipcke
Updated: August 30, 2020 11:43 PM

On the pitch, Masaki Hirata gives his complete focus to the game and his team. However the foreign exchange student originally focused on coming to Duluth Marshall High School for a different reason than playing soccer. 

"I wanted to have an opportunity to speak English in a different country, so that's why I chose Marshall last year," Hirata explained.

Upon arriving from his home near Tokyo, Japan in 2019, Hirata joined the Hilltopper boys soccer team.

Last year the midfielder helped lead them to the Section 7A semifinals. His performance during the 2019 season earned him a spot as senior captain this season.

Looking forward to filling the role, the senior was happy Minnesota approved the soccer season to continue this fall. But following that approval came the task of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.

"My family, especially my parents thought, I think, they didn't want me to come back. But if I stay in Japan for this fall I have to take an online class and I couldn't even play sports like soccer. So they also felt like they wanted me to come back here to have good opportunity," said Hirata.

After it was decided he would return to Duluth Marshall, Hirata had to take about a 15 hour flight to get there.

He said being in the airport and on the plane was a bit scary. "After I had 14 quarantine days in an isolation room fortunately I didn't have COVID, but yeah it was pretty scary to travel during this pandemic."

After passing health screens, he joined the team for the start of practices August 17th. However after spending months away from the sport Hirata said there's been some readjusting.

"I couldn't prepare for the soccer season in Japan because I couldn't have a place like [Duluth Marshall] to play soccer. I was working out at home. I was running around my home in Japan, but it was pretty difficult, not the same as last year."

Life may look different, but Hirata's senior year goals are the same. He wants to make it to the state tournament in soccer, participate on the Hilltopper Nordic ski team for a second season, and get into college either in the US or another country.


Alicia Tipcke

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