Japan’s women’s football team have been told they must fly economy class to compete in the Olympics while the men’s team get business class seats to London.
ABOVE: Japan's women's football team at the FIFA Women's World Cup in July 2011
In a clear case of outstanding double standards by the Japanese Football Association, the female team, who are strong contenders for the gold medal, have been given economy tickets to fly to the London Games, while their male counterparts - who are not expected to win anything – get to fly business class to the competition.
ABOVE: Japan's men's football team at the World Cup in 2010
"I guess it should have been the other way around," star player Homare Sawa humbly told Japanese media. "Even just in terms of age, we are senior," she joked.
ABOVE: Team captain Homare Sawa says Japan's FA should put the women in business class and the men in economy
Captained by Sawa, 2011 saw Japan’s women’s team bring home the World Cup trophy after victory over the US, becoming the first Asian team to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup. For that they earned a hero’s welcome – and an upgrade to business class seats. The men’s team however, were knocked out in the first round of their World Cup bid back in 2010 after losing to Paraguay.
So what’s going on? According to BBC News, Japan’s Olympic Committee gives most of their athletes economy tickets to fly to the Olympic Games, with a few exceptions. On that logic then, we could expect to find both the female and male football teams in economy class when flying to the Games.
ABOVE: The team at a press conference after winning the World Cup
However, that’s not quite the full story. BBC News notes that the Japan Football Association has been funding male football players to fly business class since 1996, while the female players have only been upgraded to premium economy for the 2012 Games, with local media explaining the difference in seating class as recognition of the male players’ professional status.
ABOVE: The team are contenders to add an Olympic gold medal to their World Cup trophy - but are not considered professional football players
So let’s just get this straight; because women’s football does not attract the massive sponsorship deals that the men’s game does, meaning that the majority of women around the world playing football to a professional level cannot actually afford to turn pro because they don’t earn enough money from the game to support themselves, they then get salt rubbed further into the wound when an association that is supposed to support and encourage them instead deems them second class players - literally in the case of the Japanese team.
As far as we're concerned, that's just plane wrong.
What do you think? Is the Japan Football Association wrong to put the female and male teams in different seating classes because of differences in their professional standing? Or do you think that it's irrelevant how the teams get to the Games? Tell us your thoughts on Twitter @StylistMagazine or in the comments section below
Image credit: Rex