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Japan women’s soccer team forced to fly lower class than men’s team

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Japan after winning the 2011 Women's World Cup. (Getty)

The reigning World Cup champion Japan women's soccer team is displeased after being made to fly economy class to Europe for its Olympic preparations while the Japan men's team was arranged to fly business class.

According to the Telegraph, the women's team flew from Tokyo to Paris on Japan Airlines for an upcoming Olympic warm-up match against France. Though the Japan soccer association upgraded the team from its usual economy class flights to "premium economy" as a perk for winning the Women's World Cup in Germany last year, it was still unequal treatment to the men's Olympic soccer team, who flew business class to its own warm-up matches, as it has since 1996.

[Related: A women's soccer game for the ages -- Japan vs. U.S.]

Though the men's team won a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics, members of the women's side feel its recent success warrants more respect. From the Telegraph (via Deadspin):

"I guess it should have been the other way around," Homare Sawa told reporters after arriving in the French capital.

"Even just in terms of age, we are senior," the 33-year-old captain of the women's team said.

Though the women's team participating in the Olympics is the same senior squad that beat the U.S. on penalty kicks in the 2011 Women's World Cup final, the men's tournament restricts participating nations to use Under-23 teams that can include three overage players. The BBC reports that according to local media, the Japan association "has said that seat upgrade for the male players was in recognition of their professional status."

[RELATED: What's next for U.S. women's soccer?]

But the women's team has decided to turn this situation into a positive and use it as motivation.

"When we won the World Cup, our seats were changed to business class for our return flight," Sawa, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, said. "I hope we can produce a good result again and be treated the same way."

So while most teams will be playing for pride and honor and international glory, the Japanese women's team will be playing for all of that plus a more comfortable 12-hour flight home. Edge: Japan.

Jennie Finch

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