Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Women's World Cup

I was about to write all about the latest round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup (which finished yesterday), but quite frankly the doings of Turks and Caicos or St. Lucia are a little less important than the final of the Women's World Cup.

First, my apologies for not covering the whole tournament in greater detail. I was busy getting married, my attention was focused elsewhere. So yesterday, after drawing the festivities to a conclusion with a final unwrapping/moving/unpacking of presents I was left to discover Japan's victory over the US a little later than most.

Let's agree on this for starters, clearly futbol is wildly popular, if you're reading this obscure nook of the blogopshere you know this. But like most fans in America I have to hear a great deal from local "sports fans" and "experts" that the game is not really big in America and never will be. Yet, in a game for the sports second highest international honor, ratings were broken and social media sites were jammed by all the Americans who live in a "ambivalent" futbol nation.

If you want any more proof, look no further than that news story that takes what might otherwise be an incredible, moving, underdog story and frequently alludes to the fact that: "It's great Japan won...but how did we lose?!?" The Onion posted a very snarky story last week announcing that the Women's team "better not lose" but I've honestly heard people tossing around the words "choked" and "failed". Proving that there's some serious fandom and major expectations around the women's game.

That's not to take anything away from the gritty, persevering performance by the Japanese team (or the Wild Pink), or sully what was by all accounts a wild and joyous celebration in Japan. (It's a national holiday today, probably in part because so many fans were in bars at 4 AM local time.) For a nation reeling from disasters and dire circumstances this year, it's a joyous occasion and all the more remarkable given that they lost two games to the US just two months ago.

But perhaps my favorite part of Japan's win was reading comments from old students of mine, including these ones from one female student who had played on rocky, uneven surfaces in the Himalayan foothills for the Woodstock Tigers. "We might have finished tied, but we ain't gonna lose!!!" (Have to like it anytime someone turns into a grammatically incorrect fanatic.) And then after it had ended saying "My mom is crying next to me." (Even more adorable and touching).

That's really the best part of futbol, how it brings people together with every goal, save and whistle, and when it comes to international games, it's truly inspiring to see the surge of pride and feel the excitement around the country. Over the last few weeks in Germany we've seen that enthusiasm surge through the US and Japan as well as Germany, Sweden, Brazil and around the world as mothers and daughters and sports nuts of every size and shape cheered through the tournament.

Congratulations Japan, you certainly deserve it.

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