In what may go down as the feel good sports story of the year, the Japanese women’s National football team returns to Japan with the a World Cup title to mend the broken hearts of a nation under siege from mother nature.
As the Mainichi Daily News and Japan’s weather agency reports, a large and powerful typhoon is heading north toward Japan’s Shikoku Island and could make landfall tonight. Torrential rain and strong winds have already caused damage, at least six injuries and disrupted public transportation around central Japan ahead of the main storm. Power blackouts have occurred at around 11,000 households in the Shikoku region where flooding has also been reported.
All of this comes after the devastating March earthquake and tsunami which much of the country is still reeling from.
But thanks to Japanese Women’s National Football team, the people have a reason to cheer. After a stunning defeat over the Americans in the World Cup Final in Frankfurt Germany, the Fukushima Football Association, which was forced to cancel many children’s soccer competitions and events after the March disasters, was able to hold a celebration event for families.
According to the Mainichi Daily News, “The children were buzzing with talk about the final and player Homare Sawa. It was the first cheerful news we’ve had in a while,” said 56-year-old association director Yasuaki Kurata. “I also watched the game at my home in Nihonmatsu. The players kept fighting without giving up. I’m also happy that players from teams in Fukushima played their part.”
Fukushima was one of the places hit hardest by the disaster and the subsequent nuclear emergency.
As the Mainichi Daily News reports, one 19 year old practiced with the World Cup Women’s team said, “The pitch that we played on then has become an accommodation facility for nuclear plant workers and a parking lot,” he said. “J-Village is a revered spot for Fukushima’s soccer youths. I don’t know how many years it will take to bring the nuclear power plant crisis under control, but I look forward to the day when we can again see children enjoying soccer at J-Village.”
The game of soccer and the World Cup has powers that extend far beyond the pitch. And while the World Cup win for Japan doesn’t solve all the problems, it’s always incredible how achievements on the sporting field can bring hope and joy to those who need it most.