Monday 16 January 2012

Who's Afraid of Homare Sawa?

For those of you who may have missed it, Japan won the women’s football world cup last summer. It’s easy to be cynical about all the manufactured emotion surrounding events such as this, but after the March disasters it was a genuinely uplifting occasion.

Not least the manner of their victory. The Nadeshiko played good football, were real underdogs (for once) in the final, and unlike a lot of their male counterparts hung on when the game was going against them. The equalizing goal was an exquisite finish by Homare Sawa in the dying seconds of extra time, and the winning penalty was the best of the lot.

Last week Sawa won the world player of the year award. In team sports any evaluation of individual talent is somewhat subjective, but she’s the current world-cup winning captain and golden boot, she’s her country's most capped player, and, having made her international debut at fifteen, has played at the top level for nearly two decades. By most of the best available measures, you’d have to say she’s the best in the world at what she does.

On Thursday morning I saw her get interviewed by a typically ditzy announcer, who asked her if she was worried about scaring off potential husbands in the wake of her award. So to her many talents I now have to add a beautiful ability to bat away moronic and insulting questions with grace and poise. Best in the world, remember, but apparently she still needs a boyfriend.

I was going to use this as the starting point for a piece on gender relations in Japan, then I thought better of it and thought I might write about how people everywhere value fluff and vacuity at the expense of genuine skill and dedication. But finally I thought better of that too. Not everything needs to be linked to the bigger picture and sometimes it’s fine to say that something or someone is just good, in and of themselves. And she is, so let's just celebrate that for what it is.

I’m not a big fan of holding up sportspeople as ‘role models’, but she ticks all the boxes. If I ever have a daughter, I’ll be pointing her in Sawa’s direction. I fact I’ll probably be doing that for my son. Once he stops shitting himself three times a day, at any rate.

(So, yes. Those things I said I wouldn't write about? I caved and wrote about them anyway. Maybe skip down to the alarm clock if you mainly care about the football)


  1. I rarely end up writing what I planned to write. I got ADHD and I suddenly wanna make a different point...related to my original point but totally different in ways. My last post was not what I started writing. I saw an article an mSNBC and went off the rails. This is better than what you had planned because it was unplanned ....know what I mean? Pure uninterrupted thought. From brain to keyboard..."live" as they say.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, but it's usually the other way round for me. I'm the sort of person who won't use 1 word when 50 will do (you may have noticed), so the shorter pieces actually require more thought than the longer ones to stop them spiralling out of control.

    Even here, where all I really wanted to do was express my admiration for Homare Sawa, I still couldn't help doing it a bit. Still, a big reason for the existence of this blog is for me to get a handle on stuff like this, so it's serving its purpose, at least.