"Never give up." This is the message Japan received early on July 18, the Marine Day national holiday, from Frankfurt, where the finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011 were held.
Coming from behind, Japan's national women's soccer team, Nadeshiko Japan, tied its opponent, the United States, twice in the finals and became world champion in a penalty shootout. For Japan today, the victory was much more meaningful than any words spoken by politicians.
Japan was losing ground and was repeatedly saved by "fine fielding" of the goal posts and crossbar. With only three minutes remaining, Japan captain Homare Sawa, who is always reliable in a difficult spot, tied the game. She dived for Aya Miyama's corner kick, scoring a goal with her right leg as if the move was all prearranged. This fine play made me think of a swordsman who strikes his opponent with a lightning-quick draw.
With that game-tying goal, Nadeshiko's treasure became the tournament's top goal scorer and MVP. As she predicted, Sawa made the game "the best match of her life." I was also awed by the spectacular play of goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who led her teammates' tenacity to victory.
I hear women's soccer is so popular in the United States that it is close to a national sport. About 30 percent of American girls play soccer and well-known players appear on commercials. According to the program for FIFA Women's World Cup United States, women are stronger in countries where men and women are more equal. Members of the U.S. national women's soccer team carry great pride and expectations.
Meanwhile, the Japanese national women's soccer team was established 30 years ago. Men and women now play by the same rules, and the number of players has grown more than 10-fold. Still, many leading players must work full- or part-time jobs to stay afloat.
Even though they are world champions, I've heard that Nadeshiko members are flying back to Japan in economy class.
Yet now that they have won the world title, surely they deserve an environment worthy of their skills?
Although I know very little about the sport, only having gotten up early three times to watch Nadeshiko Japan play, I can understand its charm. There were no grandstanding plays, dirty fouls or protests. I purely enjoyed watching the players pass the ball. Nadeshiko Japan has encouraged the entire nation, surprised the world and taught us the fun of this sport. I want to thank these players, who shine like huge flowers but have the indestructible roots of tenacious weeds.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 19
* * *
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
* * *
- « Prev
- Next »