Japan midfielder Kozue Ando broke her left ankle in the team’s opening match of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, ending her tournament after just 32 minutes.
In her place on the Japan bench now sits a white teddy bear wearing Ando’s No. 7 jersey, her teammates’ way of keeping the 32-year-old with them even though Ando is back in Japan now.
“In the locker room I talked with Ms. Ando using the phone line and she was able to hear me, and I was able to hear her voice, and the white teddy bear is a substitute for her,” midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi told the Associated Press. “We don’t have any problem, we have her.”
Sakaguchi scored the game-winning goal on Tuesday to lift defending World Cup champions Japan past the Netherlands and into the quarterfinals. The bear sporting Ando’s jersey was there on the bench to watch the entire match, a brilliant technical display from Japan.
“Injured Kozue Ando’s heart and spirits are at the bench with teammates,” defender Aya Sameshima posted on Facebook.
Japan will play Australia in thee quarterfinals on Saturday. Ando’s spirit will be there in Edmonton, Alberta, by way of the bear.