I got home at 12:45 AM last night. I am within 24 hours of the most incredible sport spectacle I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing live. A friend offered me the opportunity to use one of their tickets to go to the Women’s World Cup Final (USA v. Japan) in Frankfurt.
Immediately the rational, sensible, mother-of-seven-years-side of me went into gear. Kick-off wasn’t until 20:45, Ethan is away and I have three children… I couldn’t go! Fortunately, the passionate, soccer-loving side of me overrode that, and I committed to making it work. Sitter, check. Homemade shirt and obnoxious hat, check. Good friends to get me to the stadium and back, check. I did it. I spent seven of the fastest hours of my life, supporting our ladies in the middle of our adopted German homeland.
The soccer was inspiring, the fans were committed, the international fervor and yet mutual respect were something to behold. There I sat, in the heart of old Europe, watching a team from the Pacific Rim play their hearts out against our New World soccer standard-bearing women. I enjoyed an organic bratwurst with mustard, while I watched women in beautiful Japanese kimonos settle into the seats around me with their classy-but-passionate excitement. I saw plenty of facepainted U.S. bellies, heck, I wore a homemade shirt and light-up Uncle Sam hat myself.
What a year to have this experience. The women on that field were my peers. Some my exact same age. I played some highish level soccer in both California and the D.C.-area for 12 years. I know the level of time and energy required to be a competitive soccer player, and the level at which these women play is simply exhilarating. Furthermore, there was national character being displayed on that field. The U.S. women were persistent and fierce, but the Japanese were focused and efficient. The timing of the Japanese goals (within ten minutes after each U.S. goal) alone earned them the penalty kick shoot-out which gave them the title. Seeing three subsequent penalty shots stopped by the diminutive Japanese keeper was almost surreal. The celebration of the Japanese team as they were showered with golden glitter was genuine, intense and classy. Several of them formed a small circle and bowed low to the perfect green grass, honoring Buddha, presumably, but someone other than themselves assuredly. As we stayed, transfixed by the spectacle, after the cup had been handed out. The Japanese women put the trophy down, and picked up a large banner which read “Thank you to our fans in Japan and around the World” in English and proceeded painstakingly around the perimeter of the field so that we all got to see.
The night was magical, I was never once embarrassed of my blinking Uncle Sam hat, but I also learned a great deal about Japanese culture and values, simply from watching a 120 minute football match with them. When I came home to my apartment to send my spouse a quick note, the Yahoo homepage blared, “Japan wins World Cup when US falls apart in penalty kicks”. Well, I am so glad I was physically present, because I know that that is not at all what happened. Rather, a group of inspired, diligent women, brought home a golden trophy that they deserve to guard on their national soil until 2015 in Canada. Then the U.S. women can have another shot at it, and I hope to be there again. What a night.