Wow. Sunday, July 5th, 2015. It’s a date I will never ever forget. Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and the U.S. Women’s soccer team took center stage and triumphed in unforgettable fashion over Japan 5-2 in the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver, BC. It’s the greatest sports story of redemption, courage, team empowerment and the determination of a group of women who gave their all and proved to the world – and women’s sports critics and naysayers – that women CAN play on the same level as men – but even better!
“Above all else, to get the chance to fight with such an amazing group of women who have taught me not only to fight for myself but most importantly fight for one another.” —Sydney Leroux (Instagram post)
Ever since Mia Hamm led the U.S. Women’s team to World Cup victory in 1999, the hunger and passion for a World Cup championship has always been in the hearts and minds of the super talented women who play and who have played the game of soccer – even in moments of close victory. In the 2011 World Cup final in Germany the U.S. Women’s team came so close to bringing home a third star – until penalty kicks from Japan proved to be the final dagger that dashed the U.S. women’s hopes for victory. But ever since that heartbreaking defeat, the media, anti-women misogynists and plenty of sports fans (men in general) never stopped with their endless barrage of horrible, sexist criticism and remarks borderlining on “women can’t play with the men in sports.” It was enough to make women’s sports fans like myself angry. Angry that sports fans and the media would do this but yet give free passes to male athletes in the NCAA, the NFL and NBA – three sports leagues notorious for putting athletes who abuse and demean women on pedestals (Ray Rice, anyone?). But when the 2015 Women’s World Cup came around, women’s sports critics got a taste of their own medicine.
Watching the U.S. women go head-to-head with Japan in the first 15 minutes of the match was the most unreal, incredible moment in my entire life – all led by a tour de force performance by Carli Lloyd. In those 10-15 minutes the world witnessed Carli Lloyd score a hat trick, including the now legendary third goal from half way across the field. And the rest of the team from Hope Solo down to Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach all played their hearts out and the excitement in cheering these sports heroes was electrifying.
As I was glued to the TV for the whole time I noticed something that excited me as a fan: the entire U.S. team was working together and empowering each other throughout the whole match! If one of the players missed the goal there was no arguing or “what the heck was that about” yelling, these ladies got back up and went back at it and had each other’s back. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what a real sports team looks like when egos are left at home and sportsmanship takes center stage (the NFL and NBA could learn some lessons from this team). It was also an inspiring, heartwarming example of women supporting other women, which I found beyond wonderful.
“[It’s] just pure elation, I’m so, so proud of this team and these players and so happy for every little girl that dreams of this.” — U.S head coach Jill Ellis
After all what had happened sunk in, I was beyond overjoyed. Overjoyed for the fact that not only For far too long people have doubted, dissed and wrote off women’s sports as nothing by “inferior” to the men’s sports. While my friends supported their college football, NFL and NBA and gave me grief for cheering on women’s sports, I proudly ignored them and kept on supporting women’s sports – and this day made me incredibly happy. I only hope those women’s sports critics were watching because this team not only defined the term #PlayLikeAGirl but they owned the moment and became legends. No one can top the accomplishments this U.S. women’s team did. As of now I cannot wait to cheer on this team in 2019 when the Women’s World Cup goes to France! USA! USA! USA!