FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has sent a letter to the Japanese Football Association to mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.
A year ago today, the north-east of the nation suffered huge amounts of damage, and a massive loss of life, after a tremor measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale struck about 45 miles out to sea. The resulting tsunami ravaged the coastline, causing destruction as far as six miles inland, leaving close to 16,000 people dead.
“On this day we solemnly remember the events of 11 March 2011 when your country was struck by the East Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster,” President Blatter wrote. “We also remember all those who lost their lives and express our sympathy with the pain and suffering of all the victims of this tragedy.”
He went on to recognise “the courage and selflessness of all those who tirelessly worked to relieve the affected areas, rescuing victims and providing them with food and shelter”, as well as those who have helped restore the country’s pride.
The Japanese women’s team were a perfect example of this, triumphing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany just four months after the tragedy. The victory gave the population a chance to take their minds off the reconstruction of the nation and come together in a moment of joy.
What turned out to be a huge year of football for Japan culminated in them hosting the FIFA Club World Cup in December, which Blatter described as being “perfectly organised”. The JFA were emotionally acknowledged for the strife they have fought through and hard work undertaken by being awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award in January 2012.
“The strength the JFA has shown in the face of adversity serves as an example to us all of what can be achieved through unity and solidarity,” Blatter said. “Thanks to those whose brave actions helped to inspire your country’s recovery, today we are able to look to the future with greater hope and optimism.”
Following the disaster, the world football family sprang into action, organising various charitable events to aid the country, while FIFA donated a total of 6.4 million USD to the JFA. This came in the form of three new Goal projects, totalling 1.5 million USD, as well as allowed for a number of other areas of redevelopment.
These covered a variety of sites, including the restoration and expansion of Matsushima Football Centre as well as the construction of new centres in the Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. It also saw Sendai City, Mito City and Kashima City all undergo necessary improvements.