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The players could have been thousands of miles away from dwelling in Germany, but the scars from of the earthquake and tsunami that had devastated the northeastern corner of the nation nevertheless lurked in their thoughts.

On a bitterly cold day in March 2011, a 9. magnitude earthquake rocked the north eastern corner of Japan — the biggest earthquake recorded in the country’s history.

Its shockwaves threw up waves 40 meters in height, sweeping across the Pacific Ocean and onto coastal towns. In total, more than 20,000 men and women lost their lives and hundreds of thousands much more had been forced from their houses.

Despite the fact that they did not comprehend at the time, a lot of residents living close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on the east coast would by no means return as water flooding into the plant triggered radiation to leak into the surrounding region.

The cleanup is estimated to take 40 years, and only in current months have residents began to return to the region.

It really is no wonder, then, that these images shown to Sameshima and her teammates ahead of the Planet Cup quarterfinal elicited such a effective response. Nadeshiko — the nickname of the Japanese women’s football group — went on to defeat hosts Germany in further-time.

Possessing entered the tournament as an unfancied outsider, Japan proceeded to topple the USA on penalties in the final, becoming the initial ever Asian nation to win an international football tournament.

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Japan defeated the USA 5-3 on penalties to win the World Cup in 2011.

Instilling hope

Back dwelling, the news was received with delight.

“I believe virtually no one in the globe seriously believed that Japan would win,” Asako Takakura, who played for the women’s national group in the 1980s and 90s ahead of becoming coach in 2016, tells CNN.

“Lots of men and women in Japan saw Nadeshiko winning even even though we did not have absolute energy and strength, and they told us they got lots of energy from us. I really feel that the entire of Japan won the title.

“Watching players who are attempting definitely challenging in all sports — football, in our case — can move people’s hearts … I felt we could move the hearts of the men and women watching us back dwelling.”

The feats of Nadeshiko that year and the Fukushima disaster that had ripped by means of the nation 4 months previously are curiously interwoven.

J-Village in Fukushima was instrumental in the recovery effort following the nuclear disaster.
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J-Village, Japan’s national football coaching center primarily based in Fukushima, was applied as a location of refuge right away following the earthquake and tsunami.

Later, it became a base for the nuclear recovery. Steel plates had been lined more than the grounds that transformed the after-green pitches into a parking spot for heavy machinery.

The players did their bit for the recovery, also.

“The 2011 Planet Cup gave us excellent courage, specifically for the men and women enduring tricky occasions simply because of the disaster,” Shunsuke Ono, now a rep at the J-Village but previously a coach of the Japanese group, tells CNN Sport.

“I think that a lot of men and women had been encouraged by watching the Planet Cup. I believe it brought a vibrant light simply because their life was afflicted by discomfort … it was excellent to make the Japanese men and women delighted.”

Vehicles are seen parked on the football pitches at the training center in November 2011.

Reopened for company

Ono took up a job to support rebuild the J-Village in July 2013. Progress has been slow considering that then, but now the website is back up and operating and footballers are beginning to trickle by means of the doors after much more.

“We had a dark time but we are expecting much more men and women will come right here in the future,” Ono continues. “We are operating challenging for that cause. It is also quiet right here without having men and women.

“I definitely want to regain the bustle right here, and I definitely want to make it a location exactly where much more football players, football teams and football fans come back.

“Right after we began the operation right here at the finish of July, we had about 250,000 men and women go to for eight months which is about half what we had ahead of [the disaster].”

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The reopening of the J-Village has coincided with residents returning to towns surrounding Fukushima. Earlier this year, the painstaking method of removing nuclear fuel rods from 1 of the nuclear reactors got underway.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presents a ball to a local football club ealier this year when the J-Village was repoened.

Now thoughts can turn to this year’s Planet Cup in France, ahead of which the coaching center has been place to use by the Japanese players.

Nadeshiko is hoping to avenge the five-two defeat to the USA in the 2015 final possessing been drawn in a group that contains England — which Japan beat in the semifinals 4 years ago — Scotland and Argentina.

According to head coach Takakura, the team’s spirits are higher.

“I really feel players are definitely constructive, complete of motivation, cheerful and get along extremely nicely with every single other,” says the former midfielder, who led her group to an Asian Cup victory in Jordan final year.

“The Japanese players and Japan as a nation suffered from the loss [in 2015]. Having said that, we’ve place these feelings behind us by focusing on the future all the time. I don’t forget that renewed power came to us extremely quickly afterwards.”

Japanese players lift the World Cup in 2011.
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A repeat in 2019?

There is a youthful appear to Nadeshiko’s squad this year with much more than half the players aged 23 or younger.

With more than 100 appearances, Sameshima is 1 of the most knowledgeable members of the group, but the defender admits the practical experience of two preceding Planet Cups will not make her job in France any less difficult.

“I am playing with far much more stress than I was ahead of,” she says.

“We’ve had a generational alter. I do wonder how a lot of years younger some of the girls are than me. Some extremely young girls have joined who have by no means player in a massive tournament like the Planet Cup ahead of.

“Winning the Planet Cup is the team’s aim … The critical factor is to let these girls play freely on the pitch. I’d like to generate an atmosphere exactly where these young girls can play freely.”

Though the 2011 victory saw a surge in the recognition of women’s football in Japan, Sameshima, who turns 32 in the course of this year’s tournament, admits that the sport demands to raise its profile domestically if Nadeshiko desires to regularly match the likes of the USA.

“It really is required to establish women’s soccer much more firmly [in Japan],” says Sameshima. “US definitely has a excellent pool of players. There are lots of tiny girls playing soccer as nicely. That aids them make much more fantastic players.”

A paper published by the Japanese government in 2017 recorded 54,117 female footballers in Japan. In contrast, a FIFA report from 2014 detailed more than two million registered female players in the US and Canada.

Despite the fact that the men’s J League has received international focus in current years by means of the arrival of some of the game’s major players — the likes of Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and Lukas Podolski — the women’s equivalent has struggled.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Planet Cup, league games “attracted 5 to 10 occasions the usual crowd,” according to Arthur Syin, a freelance Japanese journalist, but right now he says the competitors is “suffering from low funding and extremely handful of fans at the games.”

Olympic chance

Nadeshiko’s young squad, even so, has a possibility to inspire the subsequent generation in France this year. And beyond that, there is the prospect of a dwelling Olympics on the horizon, also.

Japan failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2016 possessing completed runner-up to USA in 2012, but host status for subsequent year’s Games guarantees Japan’s involvement.

Japan's players thank their supports after defeating USA to win the World Cup.

Fukushima will also be place below the spotlight.

When the Olympic torch arrives on Japanese shores subsequent year, it will commence its procession by means of the nation from the website of the 3-fold tragedy — earthquake, tsunami, then nuclear meltdown — that unfurled eight years ago.

“The choice to host the Tokyo Olympics was a massive cause to regain and rebuild this location and the football facility,” says J-Village rep Ono.

“We would like a lot of teams to go to right here for the Tokyo Olympic Games, specifically Japan’s national teams, each male and female. I would like them to train right here and get a fantastic outcome at the Olympics.

“I hope it will be a definitely vibrant light for these in Fukushima who have had such a dark and painful time.”

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