社説:なでしこ世界一 大輪咲かせた感謝の心

(Mainichi Japan) July 19, 2011
Japan's World Cup triumph an inspiration for now and the future
社説:なでしこ世界一 大輪咲かせた感謝の心

The morning of July 18 was a happy one in Japan, energizing the entire country.

The Japanese people, faced with so much sorrow over recent months, were able to rejoice at the news that the national women's soccer team had defeated the top-ranked United States in the Women's Soccer World Cup final, bringing the championship to Japan for the first time.

The match, held in Germany, started at 3:45 a.m. Japan time, when most people are still in bed. However, for such a great event, there were many here that gave up sleep to stake out a place in front of the TV and cheer Japan's ladies on.

The odds were not in Japan's favor. The U.S. had won 21 of the two teams' 24 previous contests, with the remaining three matches ending in draws.

In the World Cup final, too, Japan gave the lead to the U.S. not once but twice, fighting back to tie the score both times with tenacity and steadfast determination, finally forcing the game into a penalty shootout.

At this do-or-die moment, Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori proved her mettle with a truly spectacular save, giving her side the chance to seal a worthy victory against a team called the best in the world.

Team captain and Japan nucleus Homare Sawa had her own starring role in the evening's drama, using the precious last minutes of overtime to knot the score at 2-2. Sawa also took home MVP honors for her astounding five goals over the course of the tournament.

Watching Sawa's many triumphs -- including that amazing overtime goal -- one is always moved seeing her joyful reactions, no matter how many times they are replayed.

This tremendous victory will certainly work as a great encouragement for Japan as it struggles to recover from the March 11 disasters and ongoing nuclear crisis.

However, it was not only the on-field heroics that have proven inspiring.

After every match including the final, the Japan team unrolled a banner reading "To Our Friends Around the World, Thank You for Your Support" and carried it around the edge of the pitch to great roars of appreciation from the crowd.
決勝戦を含め、出場したすべての試合後、なでしこたちは「世界中の友人たちへ 支援に感謝します」と英文で書かれた横断幕を手に場内を回り、スタンドの観衆の声援に応えた。

With people from all over the globe stepping up to help Japan in its moment of crisis, one could not help but feel a swell of emotion as the players spoke for their country to say a heartfelt thank you to the world.

Japan, after defeating second seed Germany and then the mighty United States, is now the team to beat.  「2強」といわれたドイツ、米国を破って一躍世界の頂点に立ち、これからは「追われる立場」となったなでしこジャパン。

However, except for a handful of players in foreign professional leagues, it is hard to say the Japanese women live in prosperous circumstances.

Many company teams across Japan have been put on ice or axed outright, making it hard for players on the national team to both hold down jobs and get necessary playing time.

In the past, women selected to the national team had to pay half their own expenses for international tournaments.

This championship team's predecessors had to deal with the pain of playing in so-called "minor events," and their sacrifice has finally borne fruit in the form of this World Cup victory.


Increasing the number of players will be a key to the future of women's soccer in Japan.

Inter-high school sports events will include girls' soccer in a national sports meet for the first time at next year's Kita Shinetsu tournament.

However, using the team's stunning World Cup triumph to provide young Japanese girls with global dreams with the structure to make them reality is now an urgent task for the nation.

All said, to all members of the Japan team, congratulations from our heart!

毎日新聞 2011年7月19日 2時31分

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