Japan's women footballers get Olympic flight upgrades

Japanese football fans in Tokyo celebrate after the women's football team won a silver medal against the US The achievements of the women's team were widely applauded

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The Japanese women's football team was upgraded to business class on its flight home from the Olympics, Japan's football association has confirmed.

Team members had complained they had flown economy class to London while the men's team sat in the business cabin.

The women's team returned on Saturday from Britain after losing in the Olympic final to the US.

The Japan Football Association said the women had their flights upgraded because they won the silver medal.

The men's team came home empty-handed.

The Associated Press news agency quoted the JFA as saying the men's team had flown business class to London because they were professionals.

But after both teams arrived in London, members of the women's squad had complained they had been treated unequally.

Japan are the current women's football World Cup champions, having beaten the US in July 2011 in Germany, and were strong contenders for gold. The men were not expected to win a medal.

Star player Homare Sawa told Japanese media that her team had been given business class seats last year, but only after they won the World Cup.

Japan's Olympic Committee allocated most of its athletes economy class seats.

The Japan Football Association has been funding male footballers to fly business class since 1996. The women's plane tickets to London for the Olympics had also been upgraded, but only to premium economy.

Despite their homeward upgrade to business class, Kyodo news agency said many of the women's team looked tired when they arrived at Narita Airport from the London Olympics on Saturday.

The silver medallists, known as "Nadeshiko Japan", were greeted by about 600 fans at Narita Airport, Kyodo reported.

"It's a tournament I will remember for the rest of my life," captain Aya Miyama was quoted as saying.

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