TOKYO - Japan gave its women's football
team the rock star treatment on Tuesday on their return from an
astonishing World Cup triumph in Germany.
Unused to the fanfare, the players filed quietly through the
airport arrivals lobby in Tokyo, squinting as hundreds of
excited fans snapped away with cameras.
"It hadn't sunk in that we'd won the World Cup until we
landed at Narita airport," Japan captain Homare Sawa, the
tournament's MVP and leading scorer, told reporters.
"I'd never seen so many people come to greet us," added the
talismanic leader of Japan's "Nadeshiko" - named after a type
of frilly pink carnation, symbolising grace and stoicism. "It
Japan's world-beating women then faced a media crush of
around 300 reporters, the World Cup, Sawa's MVP and Golden Ball
and the Fair Play trophy gleaming in front of them.
Winners of Asia's first world football title at any level, the
occasion got to many of the players who had shocked the United
States on penalties in Sunday's final in Frankfurt.
Even Sawa, the scorer of 80 goals in 173 internationals,
fluffed her lines, sitting down before being told and jumping to
her feet, covering her mouth with her hands in embarrassment.
"I heard a rumour there would be a lot of people but this is
like an event for the men's team," said coach Norio Sasaki.
"It's a new piece of history for the Nadeshiko."
'SPIRIT AND SOLIDARITY'
Showing few signs of fatigue after their dream run in
Germany and long flight home, Sasaki and his players paid their
respects to the victims of the deadly tsunami in March.
"Hopefully we were able to give an emotional boost to the
victims of disaster," he said. "But it doesn't stop here for us
and we must qualify for next year's London Olympics first."
Japan stunned hosts and holders Germany in the
quarter-finals before upsetting Sweden to set up a final against
the powerful Americans.
Sawa said a 2-0 defeat by England in the group stage had
provided Japan with the wake-up call they needed.
"Losing to England was the turning point," said the veteran
of five World Cups. "It forced up to think what we needed to fix
in order to beat Germany and Sweden.
"We felt the incredible support from Japan and we also
wanted to give some power and courage and energy to the people
suffering after the disaster."
Sawa said Japan's women would not rest on their laurels.
"There is an amazing spirit and solidarity in this team,"
she said. "We have never won an Olympic title so that is our
Sasaki said he hoped the team would be an inspiration for
those still struggling to come to terms with the earthquake and
"When Sawa scored to get us to penalties, I was grinning
from ear to ear and wanted to crack a joke but I had to bite my
tongue and decide the order of kickers," he said.
"Sawa just said, 'I'm not taking one!' and that made
everyone laugh. We proved women's football has the power to move
people. I hope it encourages people to be just like our
Pardew to report to returning ex-manager
Sub scores to make it three World Cups in a row
Three-year jail sentence a possibility
Principality project faces legal wrangles over exceptional circumstances
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010