Japan's World Cup winners in line for rare award
Japan's trail-blazing women's players could become the first team to receive the prestigious People's Honour Award for their astonishing World Cup triumph earlier this month.
A Japanese government spokesman said on Monday that their giant-killing run to the title in Germany had given a ray of hope to victims of the deadly tsunami in March.
"They brought joy to and inspired many people in Japan and gave society something to be hopeful for," Yukio Edano told a news conference.
Japan is battling to recover from the damage caused by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami, which triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo.
Team "Nadeshiko", named after a frilly pink carnation symbolising beauty and stoicism, lifted spirits in devastated north-east Japan by becoming the first Asian side to win a world title at any level.
Japan stunned hosts and holders Germany, perennial powerhouse Sweden and the mighty United States on penalties in a cliff-hanging final in Frankfurt.
The award, first given in 1977, has been bestowed upon 18 individuals so far, from the world of sports to entertainment, but no team has yet to win it.
Edano quickly brushed off the suggestion the award was being used to help prop up the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose support ratings have plummeted since the disaster.
"If giving the award could help keep the government afloat, nothing would be easier," he said.