Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Memorable Victory

I'm not a soccer fan. Really. I've been writing this blog for about six years now, and I believe this is only my second entry about soccer. Here is my first — written four years ago. Not too complimentary, is it?

One of my complaints then (as now) was the randomness — and infrequency — of scoring in soccer. If you watched the Germans score seven goals on Brazil in their historic World Cup semifinal, that might be hard to comprehend — although you really don't have to look any farther than the other semifinal, in which Argentina and the Netherlands fought through a scoreless match that was finally won by Argentina in the penalty shootout.

That is the kind of match that comes to my mind when I think of soccer, and it just doesn't appeal to me.

But today is the 15th anniversary of a soccer milestone that I just feel compelled to observe — even though it, too, was quite light on scoring. On this day in 1999, the U.S. women's soccer team won the World Cup. They won the World Cup in 1991, too, but they finished third in 1995. Norway won it that year.

Sixteen teams competed for the 1999 Women's World Cup. When the United States and China met for the championship in the Rose Bowl, more than 90,000 people were there to watch.

It was the highest attendance ever for a women's sports event.

The match went all the way through regulation and two overtimes with neither team scoring a goal so it went to a penalty shootout. On the fifth kick, 30–year–old Brandi Chastain scored to give the United States the victory.

Chastain spontaneously pulled off her jersey — as victorious male soccer players have been known to do — and, clad in a sports bra, waved her jersey in her clenched right fist.

"Momentary insanity, nothing more, nothing less," Chastain explained later. "I wasn't thinking about anything. I thought, 'This is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field.'"

The image, which landed on the covers of several magazines, is regarded by many as one of the best–known images of a woman celebrating a sports victory.

Early on, 33–year–old Michelle Akers kept the United States in the game by blocking nearly every shot that came her way, but she and the U.S. goalkeeper collided late in regulation, and she had to leave the match.

After two scoreless overtimes, it came down to the penalty shootout, which the U.S. won on Chastain's goal.

As I mentioned four years ago, I'm just not a fan of soccer — and I didn't see the U.S.–China match. July 10 was a Saturday in 1999 so I suppose I could have. I just didn't. I don't remember why.

But I do remember seeing highlights of the match, and Chastain ripping off her jersey in exultation.

The United States has not won the World Cup since.

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