Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Cup glory a gift for Tsunami ravaged nation

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FRANKFURT:Their country’s misery was never far from their hearts.

Thousands dead or missing. Villages erased. Homes destroyed.

The players on Japan’s women’s World Cup team invoked the slow recovery from a devastating tsunami and earthquake time and again. Whatever they could do, they vowed, they would.

True to their word, the gleaming World Cup trophy will ride back on the plane with them—a prize, they hope, that will lift the gloom, even if only for a short while.

“Before we went to the match tonight we had some commentary on television and we heard comments on the situation in Japan,” coach Norio Sasaki said after Japan upset the Americans for the World Cup title in a riveting final Sunday night, 3-1 on penalty kicks, after coming from behind twice in a 2-2 tie.

“We wanted to use this opportunity to thank the people back home for the support that has been given.”

Following each of their games in Germany, the players made a solemn parade around the field with a banner that read, “To our Friends Around the World— Thank You for Your Support.” Before Japan upset Germany in the quarterfinals, Sasaki showed his players images of the destruction to remind them of their higher purpose.

“They touched us deep in our souls,” star Aya Miyama said about the photos at the time.

And they responded in kind. Joyous fans wearing Japan jerseys hugged and sang in Tokyo as they watched the players hold the trophy aloft, confetti swirling around them and flecking their hair with gold. Special newspaper editions were printed by the national papers and handed out to pedestrians in Tokyo on Monday morning, while scenes from the game were replayed constantly on television. “If any other country was to win this, then I’m really happy and proud for Japan,” US midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “Deep down inside I really thought it was our destiny to win it. But maybe it was Japan’s.” (Agencies)

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