For battered Japan, an inspiring win

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2011, 12:00am


A kick was all it took to lift Japan from the funk in which it has been mired since the earthquake and tsunami four months ago. Joy erupted nationwide yesterday as Saki Kumagai smashed the ball high into the net to clinch for her country its first soccer world title.

In an instant, the lingering sorrow and concern about what tomorrow may bring were replaced by radiant smiles and pride. No doctor could have prescribed a better medicine.

In that one kick were all the ingredients that Japan will need to get its house back in order: iron will, determination and sheer guts. They were the qualities that drove the nation's women's World Cup team to the final in Germany against the previous two-time winner, the US.

It's what pushed them through to the nail-biting penalty shoot-out, a moment that requires steel nerves and cool heads.

The Japanese women had something more at work, too. They had inspiration.

Coach Norio Sasaki had flashed photographs of the destruction wrought by the March 11 tragedy at the team. After each game, the players unfurled a banner that read: 'To our friends around the world - thank you for your support.' Just before the final, they watched a television programme that highlighted the misery back home.

They knew what victory would mean for Japanese and they knew in their hearts that they had to deliver.

And deliver they most certainly have. No politician or pop star could have lifted the spirits as has the team. They have done their nation proud and made it forget its troubles.

Most importantly, though, they have given their country fresh determination to overcome its difficulties.