MIKE NIETO: This family a bit divided over women's World Cup

2011-07-15T22:00:00Z 2011-07-16T02:15:06Z MIKE NIETO: This family a bit divided over women's World CupBy Mike Nieto Times Columnist nwitimes.com
July 15, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Beecher resident Yoko Griffin knows which soccer team she will be rooting for Sunday in the FIFA Women's World Cup Championship between the United States and Japan.

"I am going to cheer for Japan," said Griffin, who grew up in Okinawa. "I am not rooting against the United States, but I will cheer for Japan. I am excited because I still have family over there and I know they will all be watching the game."

Griffin has been in the U.S. for 30 years, and her son-in-law is Charlie Ward -- not the former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida State, but the Homewood-Flossmoor boys and girls soccer coach. Ward said they will watch the game together, and there may be a friendly wager.

"I will be pulling for the United States and I want us to win, but I will not be upset if Japan wins," Ward said. "When you look at what happened and the tragedy, this is good for Japan to reach the finals."

Griffin said she was lucky to have not had anyone from her family killed or injured in the March earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern part of the island. Another earthquake struck Japan earlier this month.

"It was terrible and I am fortunate no (family members) were hurt," Griffin said. "I know getting to the (World Cup) finals, that is big and a big boost for Japan after everything that happened. I think it is going to be a good game and I am excited."

Griffin was never much of a soccer fan, but said she started following the sport because her son-in-law is a coach.

"Football is my favorite sport," Griffin said. "I love football, but with Charlie, I started following soccer and I became a fan."

She loves the Bears, too, and said Sundays are spent in front of the TV with a halftime snack or two. Griffin believes the 2011 NFL season will get played.

"I think there will (be a settlement)," said Griffin, who added that she's confident the Bears will do well.

"Why not?" she said. "We got a good quarterback (in Jay Cutler) and they should be pretty good."

On the soccer front, Ward anticipates a good World Cup final.

"I expect a close one, and it should be good for soccer," he said. "I know at our school, the boys are even following it and rooting for the United States."

But for right now, the H-F coach is looking forward to a Sunday afternoon with family cheering for both sides. If Japan wins, Ward may be taking his mother-in-law out to dinner. Otherwise, Griffin may owe him a meal.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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