They couldn’t have scripted it better. It was a storybook weekend for women’s soccer. While most of the US press was focused on Derek Jeter’s 3,000 hit (at least that’s what it looks like from my vantage point in NYC), the real story for women’s sports was the comeback of the US women’s national soccer team who were literally moments from their earliest elimination in the Women’s World Cup.
The amazing thing about this game — and I hope many parents of boys and girls watched the game to see these great role models — was that these women never, ever gave up.
Women’s soccer hit its pinnacle 12 years ago to the day when the team of Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain won the World Cup on penalty kicks. There was only one woman on that field yesterday, the captain Christie Rampone who was on the field 12 years ago. Now is the time of Abby and Hope and Shannon and Carli and Megan and all the other women whose names you should know but don’t. The pony tailed starlets of 99 are gone (and many have been commentating from Germany) and soccer has sadly toiled in obscurity since then. I hate to think that 1999 was a fluke that it was just a moment that we had in the culture where people looked at these women and saw what they had accomplished and respected it and then just moved on. The women keep proving themselves over and over yet, it has been very difficult to take it to the next level. One professional women’s league folded and another is struggling.
With all due respect to the great women’s basketball players and the 15 years of the WNBA, the story of women’s soccer is still the great story of women’s sports in this country. The world loves its football (soccer in this country) and the US audiences will come out and watch the men play (who by the way have never really won anything), but still people don’t watch women play in the same way. It’s just like Disney will make a dozen male sports inspirational films and a single female sports inspirational film (and that one with a female lead Secretariat was about a horse.)
The story of getting people to take women’s sports seriously is the story of people taking women seriously. Period. Sports is a symbol for so many things and we all know it. And it’s not just here. While the German people embraced their team and the tournament just like the US did in 1999, people, men around the world still won’t get on the bus. An idiot former German player said “women’s bodies just aren’t made to play soccer”, and John White the dad of English striker Ellen White said that men and “the biggest hurdle for women’s soccer.”
The US team wasn’t the only team who beat the odds this weekend and what it showed was how the women’s game has progressed. Norway which dominated women’s soccer at the beginning couldn’t even make it out of the group phase, and the two time reigning World Cup champion, Germany, got eliminated by the feisty and tenacious Japanese team who were playing to restore hope in a country devastated by an earthquake and tsunami.
I thought the diminutive Japanese beating the towering Germans was the best game I had ever seen played, and quite frankly I had almost written off the US women because they have of late not been too impressive. But they did it. When no one believed, they believed in themselves and that was seriously inspirational and beyond impressive. I am still blown away for their fortitude and perseverance. It is a lesson for anyone trying to do something. Just believe.
If US can’t love soccer after this, it never will (Seattle PI)
Men become the hot topic at women’s World Cup (The China Post)