- Finland were the only team making their debut at this U-17 Women’s World Cup
- They will be eliminated after the group stage after two consecutive losses
- “This is like a second family for us,” left-back Nana Yang
Tears and silence filled the Montevideo air.
Every young woman in a blue kit dropped to the ground, emotionally and physically spent.
Finland were out. After a hard-fought 90 minutes against perennial qualifiers Ghana, it was two defeats from two for the only side making their debut at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Moments after the final whistle sounded, the players’ parents waited at the edge of their seating section, ready to embrace their children. The moments that followed are difficult to describe.
These are parents who flew halfway around the earth to be there for their children—and undoubtedly there were more who wish they could have been there. They were there for their daughters in the stands of Estadio Charrua, some of them could be seen hugging their children for several sustained minutes. You could hear a pin drop.
“I’m very proud today,” said left-back Nana Yang’s mother Sigrid to FIFA.com. “My daughter said they were really charged up for the match. They gave it their best, you can’t do any more than that. If you’re here, than basically you have reached very far. It’s been a joy to be here. It was live broadcasted on Finnish TV so all my friends have been in front of their TVs saying, ‘There’s Nana!’ They’re all very proud of her.
“I told her when I was hugging her, ‘You have nothing to be ashamed of, you played so well. They came as underdogs. They’re winners already. They couldn’t lose by being here. For all the parents, they are the winners.”
Before getting on her team bus, Nana stopped and spoke with FIFA.com to try and put words to the emotions she and the team were experiencing: “Everyone was just crying in the dressing room trying to keep yourself together but it wasn’t possible. We couldn’t move or do anything. It was really hard for everyone.
“It’s been a long, long journey for this team. We’ve been together for two years now and we’ve had our ups and downs. This is like a second family to every player and also the coaches and the staff. Being here has a been a dream come true because no one expected us to be here. We are extremely proud to be here but we’re disappointed with the outcome.
“It’s extremely touching that so many parents and fans came all the way from Finland,” Nana continued. “It takes a full day to travel here. Seeing them after the game, it’s emotional.
“I hope that we can be idols for younger players and set an example for the country.”
Leaving a legacy
Finland’s senior national team coach Anna Signeul could also be seen pitchside, consoling all of the players. Her presence all the way in Montevideo a testament to her belief in the future of Finland women’s football.
“I just told them they should be proud of what they achieved,” Signeul said. “It’s fantastic for their future as football players. They have learned a lot in these two games. They will benefit from this for their whole football life.”
Signeul signed off in the best way possible: “You know what? You must enjoy football. We’re all here because we love the game. You have to live the moment and learn for the future.”