TOKYO, Japan, July 18 – Japanese erupted in joy Monday after their team won the women’s World Cup, hailing “a dream come true” and “a miracle” for the country as it battles to recover from March’s huge earthquake and tsunami.
Local media reported extensively on the reactions of people living in shelters after the March 11 disaster in the northeast destroyed homes, left 21,000 people dead or missing and sparked a nuclear crisis.
Katsuo Mori, a 74-year-old man whose home was washed away by the towering tsunami, told Jiji Press news agency: “This will help brighten the atmosphere at the temporary housing complex. It will boost our efforts to hang on.”
In the same temporary unit in the city of Natori, 50-year-old female part-time worker Yoshiko Saito told Jiji: “Women are strong. I believe women will emerge stronger in the future.”
In the shelters, and in bars, public places and in millions of homes, football-mad Japanese watched glued to the action live from Germany as their women emerged 3-1 on penalties over twice champions the United States.
Japan become the first team from Asia to win the women’s World Cup.
Hundreds of fans, many of them clad in blue Japan jerseys, bundled out onto the streets of fashionable Shibuya, a hub of Tokyo’s nightlife, chanting “Nippon! Nippon!” after the match finally ended at around 6:20 am Japan time.
“It was a great victory which gives impetus to our reconstruction,” said Yukihito Abe, the head of the football association in the tsunami-ravaged town of Minami-sanriku.
“I really want to say ‘Thank you’,” he told public broadcaster NHK at one temporary housing unit.
“Nadeshiko, the world number ones!” screamed identical banner headlines in extra editions of the major daily newspapers Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun that were handed out in Tokyo and other major cities.
Nadeshiko is a pink flower cherished in male-dominated Japan as a symbol of feminine beauty and grace, belying the squad’s tough giant-killing run to lift the trophy after twice coming from behind to take the final into extra-time.
Defender Saki Kumagai, who smashed the ball past US goalkeeper Hope Solo for the winning penalty, had visited Minami-sanriku to see the widespread destruction for herself.
A jubilant Japan Football Association honorary president Saburo Kawabuchi declared: “Now I know miracles can happen. The goddess of victory smiled on us as we have worked hard with a big dream and the spirit of fair play.”
Even television sports anchors struggled to keep their emotions in check.
“It’s a dream come true for Nadeshiko Japan. They beat the United States for the first time,” gushed an announcer on the Fuji TV network. “They played patiently… to bathe themselves in glory.”