As a family Bryan, Mariah and I love watching professional soccer games; both men’s and women’s. I am sure this pastime has become more exciting for us because our daughter has played competitive soccer since the 3rd grade. I find soccer to be the most exciting spectator sport because of the constant skill and athleticism needed to play this game; 90 minutes of action. We couldn’t wait for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Germany this past week. Mariah, being a planner, looked at our calendars and plotted which games she couldn’t miss and of course was right on top of the times and days the U.S. Women’s team was scheduled to play. When I was able, I joined her for the early playoffs as well as Bryan when he wasn’t working.
Last week the U.S. team stunned Brazil in the quarter-finals. Just a few days later they played France in the semi-finals. Bryan actually went into work late that day as the three of us anxiously awaited the exciting match. In our house Yoshi our adorable Russian Blue feline (he is recovering beautifully from his surgeries and his three week ordeal at the Emergency Veterinary Hospital) loves to sit on laps, especially Mariah’s, when we are watching the big TV in the family room. The game Wednesday drew so much screaming and excitement from us that Yoshi jumped dramatically and took off running on more than one occasion. Our women on the U.S. team were positively breathtaking to watch in this semi-final match that went to 30 minutes of over time. It is known that they train very hard and are extremely fit. They were out played by the French team but they never let up. It was obvious they were there to win, which they did.
Last Sunday we prepared for the final match between Japan and the U.S. It is a tradition in our home that we eat nachos, with guacamole and salsa whenever we watch a sporting event together. I was stressing over that simple feat. I didn’t want to miss a minute of the game and knowing that the half time is short, perhaps 10 minutes, I was worried I didn’t have enough time to make the guacamole. It may seem silly that we were so excited for this event, but we were. The last time the U.S. Women’s team had won the World Cup was in 1999 when Mariah was four years old. I remember it well and was visualizing that this would be the 3rd World Cup for America.
Before the game Mariah said to me, “I am as nervous for this game as I am as if I were playing myself. Mom, as much as I want our women to win, if Japan wins then it was meant to be.” Mariah had personal experience with the Japanese culture when she traveled last year to Japan with People To People as a student ambassador. When she stayed with her host family, whom she adored, she played soccer with the boys. The girls in the family didn’t play soccer. She got the feeling that soccer wasn’t respected as much for women as it was for men. Mariah then added, “With all the tragedy that has stricken Japan, if these girls win, it must be fate.”
By now you probably know the results and if you didn’t see the game you certainly have seen a few highlights. Our team was magnificent and the Japanese women full of passion and full of fight. It was a tough, tight game, the most thrilling event I have ever watched. It was heartbreaking to watch the faces of the U.S. team. I truly feel their disappointment. The winning Japanese team has accomplished something that has never been done; this is the first Asian team to win the World Cup. Having lost 25 times to the U.S. team they were slated in fourth place to the U.S. who was in first place coming into the tournament. Their country has been ravaged with an earthquake, tsunami and the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Imagine the fervor it takes for this team to work extremely hard in the face of this horrendous tragedy. These women did it! The Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan hailed the victory as the “greatest gift” to the nation. This was a magical game restoring a balance to what has seemed to be lopsided to the citizens of Japan. They have some Hope in their remarkable team that goes by the name “Nadeshiko” which means a pink mountain flower that symbolizes beauty and strength. I hope the joy and pride that Japan feels for their special women will continue to grow and spread throughout the world. We can all relish in this miraculous story.