We Spleen: Japanese Women Fly Coach to Olympics While Men Get Business Class

In Japan, winning a world title earns you a seat at the back of the bus, er, plane.

The Japanese women’s soccer team flew to Europe Sunday on the same flight as the men’s team. While the women crammed into coach seats, the men’s team scored seats in business class. As it stands, this would be an injustice, but here’s the kicker: The women are world champions; the men are, well, not as successful.

The Nadeshiko, as the women’s team is known, won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup last summer, beating out the U.S. team in a spectacular final. Just months after the country’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis, the team’s victory brought hope to its battered compatriots, and the women were welcomed back from the final as heroes.

A year later, that inspiration seems to have been forgotten, at least by the Japanese Football Association, who said the men’s and women’s teams had left Tokyo on the same flight without any mention of the seating inequality. London’s The Guardian reported the women’s team’s reactions:

‘I guess it should have been the other way around,’ Homare Sawa, the team’s star player, told Japanese media. ‘Even just in terms of age, we are senior,’ she joked.

Nadeshiko’s success last year and their continued achievements (they beat Australia, the 10th-ranked team in the world, 3-0 last week in an international friendly) has sparked conversation about their gold medal possibilities. The team is ranked No. 3 in the world, behind the U.S. and Germany. The men’s team is No. 20 and not expected to medal in London.

There’s some hope for more leg room: The JFA says that if the women’s team proves its worth with a medal, the players will fly business class on the return flight to Japan. The last time Nadeshiko flew business class was after their World Cup win, when the JFA thought it acceptable to upgrade their seats. Whether or not the men’s team medals, the men will enjoy seats further up in the cabin.

Photo of Japanese women’s football team celebrating their 2011 FIFA World Cup win from Flickr user demosphere via Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. Jayne Kelly says:

    Are you sodding kidding me?? I had to restrain myself at two question marks, because I loathe people who use more, but this article makes me understand their compulsion…

  2. Yikes, Rebecca! We spleen indeed!

    What airline? They could score some PR points by providing complimentary upgrades for the women’s team next time they fly. It’s the least they can do.

  3. Andrew Wasabi says:

    That Rebecca is one smart cookie!

  4. This is the same thing that happened with the Australian men and women’s basketball teams

  5. Yes, Australian basket ball team MEN in Business class, WOMEN in economy to the Olympics…

  6. This is disgusting!…

  7. Why do these things still happen to woman!? Why is it still tolerated!? You would no longer see that happening between a team of white and a team of black people for example! Nobody would no longer dare to display so much obvious racism and actively discriminate that way! (And it’s a good thing!)
    But why is it still ok to treat women like shit and discriminate against them by pure sexism!?
    Why the world has made progress in other area, like racism, on one hand; and why, on the other hand, is it still such a battle for women everywhere around the world!?.. What is wrong with this world !?!?

  8. That is truly unconscionable!! Women have to sit in the back of the bus … uh, I mean plane! All participants in all events should fly in the same category. It may mean that people may be spread over more than one or two flights in order to accommodate them all. But the basis of the Olympics is fairness and sportsmanship. To treat women athletes and men athletes differently is to treat them unequally. This is just wrong!!

    I think it is up to the IOC to declare equality for athletes in transportation.

  9. Wtf? When will this end? It’s really getting old…

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