Japan’s World Cup title elicits joy, sorrow in San Francisco 

When Japanese defender Saki Kumagai scored the final penalty kick in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, Kumi Yumauchi screamed.

The 40-year-old San Francisco resident said the game was amazing, even down to the last minute.

For a collection of photos from San Francisco's celebration, click here.

“It’s such a great honor to see them,” said the fan of Japan’s team. “Many people are rooting for Japan even if they do not show it.”

Japan beat the U.S. 3-1 in a shootout after a 2-2 tie. The victory gave Japan its first World Cup title and came just months after a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed much of the island’s northeastern coast. That made the Japanese team a sentimental favorite for many soccer fans.

Yumauchi was among thousands of fans who watched the final match unfold on a big screen set up in the park in the Civic Center Plaza. Emotions were high throughout the 122-minute match. The crowd cheered and groaned with each United States goal quickly answered by Japan.

Norbu Saito couldn’t sit still. The 46-year-old Japanese immigrant was on his feet for the final minutes of overtime play. He blew into his vuvuzela, a South African noisemaker, after each intense play.

Although Saito would have been happy with either team winning, he ultimately rooted for Japan.

The intensity of the game’s final moments was almost too much for fans to handle.

Leona Gonsalves of Vallejo paced back and forth for each penalty kick. She threw her hands in the air each time a goal was missed by the U.S. offense, and cringed each time a goal was scored on the Americans. When the Japanese secured their victory, the one-quarter-Japanese 52-year-old couldn’t hold back tears.

“This is what the game is all about,” she said. “They played wonderfully; it was an amazing game. They just couldn’t get the ball in the goal.”

Gonsalves, a soccer player since the age of 8, said the game is much like life. Although she thinks the U.S. outplayed Japan, she congratulated the Japanese for their victory.

“I’m sad, but I’m happy for Japan,” she said. “It’s OK. Life goes on.”


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