TOKYO: Japan's women footballers have bagged themselves an upgrade on their plane ride home from the Olympics, the team coach said, after a sexism row over their flight to Europe ahead of the Games.
The guaranteed medal that comes with a spot in the final in London after a semi-final win over France will see the world champions sitting pretty in business class for the return to Tokyo, coach Norio Sasaki said.
There were claims of sexism after the women were seated with the hoi polloi on the outward leg, while Japan's less successful under-23 men's squad relaxed in business class on the same plane.
But after seeing his side on Monday secure a place in the final against the United States, Sasaki said they would likely now get seats up front after the Japan Football Association hinted they would be rewarded for a medal.
The team is assured of at least a silver by reaching Thursday's final.
“The Japan Football Association is trying to work something out,” Sasaki told Kyodo News.
“When we came here we came in premium economy and there wasn't a problem,” he said.
“The problem is when we go back there will probably not be enough business seats available. If that's the case we will be in premium again,” the 54-year-old quipped.
“If you look at the way we played then you will see that we are very patient and would put up with economy.”
The Japanese women, nicknamed “Nadeshiko” after a pink flower that symbolises femininity and grace in Japan, beat Brazil 2-0 in the quarter-finals before their 2-1 semi-final victory.
The unfancied Japanese men -- who unlike their women compatriots have never won the World Cup -- also reached the semi-finals, for the first time in 44 years since they grabbed the silver in Mexico City.
They beat Egypt 3-0 and will play off against Mexico on Tuesday for a spot in the final.
Women's World Player of the Year Homare Sawa, who scored an extra-time equaliser to take last year's World Cup final -- also against the US -- to penalties, said the team got an upgrade home from Germany that time.
The Japan Football Association has helped change the tickets for men to business class since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, reportedly in consideration of their full professional status.
For London, the association upgraded the women's tickets one notch to “premium” economy in recognition of their status as potential medallists.