In a life where I am only thinking about soccer, almost pickled in soccer, I feel really happy, said Karina Maruyama in her website. Maruyama was a substitute in the quarter-final against the heavily favored defending champion Germany, when she outran the defense and scored on an angled shot in extra time.

Behind the refreshing victories in Women's World Cup, the Japanese team had gone through times of tears and struggles, as the nation was forced to cope with the devastating aftermath of triple disasters in March.

Ever since the March 11 earthquake, I was always thinking about what I can do in the midst of suffering Japan, said Maruyama on her website, the night before the final match with America.

Honestly, I thought it was not the right time to play soccer. Complicated feelings were always entangled within me, but receiving power from everyone's encouragement, I could greet tomorrow.


A family pray for their missing family members on the fourth month's anniversary of March 11's earthquake and tsunami disaster at Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture July 11, 2011. [REUTERS]

Tomorrow, for Japan, and above all for those in Tohoku [the region the earthquake hit], I will do my best.

Maruyama used to work for Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear plant crippled by the march 11 earthquake and tsunami, reports Reuters. Maruyama actually lived in Fukushima as she worked at the Fukushima plant from 2005-2009 and played at its soccer team.

In April, Maruyama expressed her thoughts on the website, asserting her pride in the TEPCO workers. The tsunami was unexpected, and that's why the accident happened at the nuclear plant. No one is to be blamed. It's not TEPCO's fault, wrote Maruyama. Receiving criticism, she immediately admitted her fault and apologized. As a player of a team sport, I have played soccer thinking one is for all and all for one. Facing this earthquake and the meltdown, I was confused and wrote a blog post. With a repentant heart, she continued to seek for a way to show the suffering Japan the best she can do.

Many players in the Japanese team share the heart of Maruyama for the suffering Japan, especially the north-eastern region that received the most damages from earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Let's see Japan unite as one, fight until we win the victory together, Maruyama's focus was very clear.


Karina Maruyama (C) of Japan fights for the ball with Alex Krieger of the U.S. during their Women's World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011. REUTERS

Prior to the Japan match with Germany at the quarter-final on July 9th, Sasaki showed the team a video clip of devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, post-tsunami, post-meltdown. When you feel difficult, think of the victims and endure, was the silent message delivered through the video clip.

Although Sasaki did not give a speech himself, the hearts of the team members were touched and ignited through remembering their long-suffering country.

After the viewing, the team was tearing up, and was fueled by an unusual motivation. It was enough for them to win Germany, and eventually U.S., bringing comfort and strength for their home country that copes with the aftermath of the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. Defense Aya Samejima also worked at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, and transferred to Boston Breakers when the company's soccer team's activity was suspended. Defense Azusa Iwashimizu and forward Kozue Ando are from the earthquake-hit areas, and so is coach Sasaki.

It was supposed to be us who gives strength to Japan, but through looking at the people who stand up for the reconstruction after the disaster, we received great strength. We will use that strength fully on the pitch. With persistence, not giving up till the end, we will run. Representing Japan, with pride, at the best stage, may we shine, wrote Maruyama, as she awaited the historical match with America.

After Japan's refreshing victory, the evacuees in Fukushima received courage and strength, according to Japanese media.


Japan's head coach Norio Sasaki (R) and his players celebrate with the trophy after winning their Women's World Cup final soccer match against the U.S. in Frankfurt July 17, 2011. REUTERS