SOCCER / Kawasumi’s fairy-tale season continues

December 01, 2011

By JUNYA YOSHIDA / Staff Writer

No glass slippers here, please, because Nadeshiko Japan forward and INAC Kobe Leonessa captain Nahomi Kawasumi hates being referred to as the "Cinderella of the Nadeshiko."

"I really want people to see me as a soccer player, first and foremost," says Kawasumi. "And for that to happen, I definitely need to continue producing results on the pitch."

And the results have been good lately. The 26-year-old forward was recently named MVP of the Nadeshiko League and was also the top scorer with 12 goals, sharing that honor with teammate Shinobu Ohno.

Since joining Nadeshiko Japan, which won the Women's World Cup in July, Kawasumi has become popular among the Japanese public for her charming smile. She has also gained attention for her pink hair band and extravagant nail art. Her popularity has soared to the point where she is getting numerous offers to appear in TV commercials.

In reality, however, Kawasumi is slightly different from the public perception of her. For example, she can often be spotted cruising around on her 400cc motorbike, searching for the cheapest vegetable stand in a local shopping arcade. There may be a little grease under those finely manicured nails.

Kawasumi hails from Kanagawa Prefecture. She started playing soccer in second grade, following in the footsteps of her sister, who is three years older. By the sixth grade, she was able to juggle a ball in the air non-stop with her feet some 3,000 times.

After graduating from Nippon Sport Science University, Kawasumi joined INAC Kobe Leonessa, this season's Nadeshiko League champion. She was appointed captain this season, her fourth year with the team. When Kobe added four current and former members of the national team to its roster--including Nadeshiko Japan captain Homare Sawa--the younger members on Leonessa were feeling overwhelmed by the addition of such experienced veterans. So Kawasumi invited those younger players to her home and treated them to a home-cooked dinner.

She brought the team together by serving as a bridge between the new players and the previous members, and led the club to its first league title 11 years after the team's founding. Immediately after Leonessa won the title, Sawa patted Kawasumi on the head, causing Kawasumi to break into one of those huge smiles that have made her so popular.

"I feel so happy right now," she thought to herself.

In addition to clinching the World Cup, Kawasumi now has a league title under her belt. As a member of the national team, Kawasumi quickly became a regular forward in the squad. All this success and her quick rise through the ranks has led to Kawasumi being christened the soccer world's Cinderella.

And the fairy tale may continue for Kawasumi this summer.

"My dream now is to win the gold medal at the London Olympics," she says.

By JUNYA YOSHIDA / Staff Writer
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Nahomi Kawasumi waves to fans after INAC Kobe Leonessa clinched the 2011 Nadeshiko League title on Nov. 12. (Shinichi Iizuka)

Nahomi Kawasumi waves to fans after INAC Kobe Leonessa clinched the 2011 Nadeshiko League title on Nov. 12. (Shinichi Iizuka)

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  • Nahomi Kawasumi waves to fans after INAC Kobe Leonessa clinched the 2011 Nadeshiko League title on Nov. 12. (Shinichi Iizuka)

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