Japan’s women’s soccer team is a strong contender to win at gold medal at the London Olympics. Star player Homare Sawa is going to her fourth Olympics; she captained the Japanese women’s team that beat the US in the 2011 World Cup.
To get to this year’s Olympics in London, Sawa and her teammates flew economy class. Players on the men’s soccer team, which is not expected to win a medal, flew business class.
As Sawa said to the Japanese media (via the BBC), “I guess it should have been the other way around.”
At 33, Sawa is also the oldest Japanese player who will be playing soccer in the 2012 and is a star in Japan. Her team’s 2011 World Cup victory was all the more meaningful as it occurred after the devastating tsunami and earthquake, and the Fukushima disaster.
Sawa also observed that “Even just in terms of age, we are senior,” a reference to the respect traditionally given to the elderly in Japanese and Asian cultures.
After the women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory, they were given business class seats. Japan’s Olympic Committee has had most athletes fly economy class. The Japan Football Association has been funding business class seats for the players on the men’s team since 1996 and said the upgrade was in “recognition of their professional status.”
Regardless, especially given the recognition to the Japanese women’s soccer team and their victories, having them fly economy class while the men’s team flew business sends a pretty clear message about the so-to-speak “lower status” in which the women’s team, and female athletes, are still held. Perhaps the men’s team could have turned down their business class seats and joined their teammates in the economy section.
As a reminder of the women’s team’s prowess, here is a video of “epic Sawa.”
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