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Japan honors women's soccer squad

(Xinhua)

10:25, August 19, 2011

TOKYO, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Thursday honored its World Cup-winning women soccer squad as people's heroes.

The 21-member team, who beat favorites the United States last month, were named recipients of the "People's Honour Award", previously won by the likes of baseball home-run king Sadaharu Oh and film director Akira Kurosawa.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan spoke at a ceremony to recognise their victory over two-time champions the United States to win Asia's first football World Cup title.

The victory by the team was a rare moment of brightness for the nation following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

"You gave courage to and reinvigorated all of the people who are trying to recover from the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake," Kan told the ceremony.

Afterwards coach Norio Sasaki told reporters: "We want to further devote ourselves to giving people inspiration and courage."

The award, created in 1977 to honor figures who have given "bright hope" to the public, has been presented to 18 individuals in the sporting and entertainment worlds, but never before to a group.

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