Show Some Love: USA v France in the Women's World Cup Semis
By Kim Bellware in News on Jul 12, 2011 9:15PM
A sad reality about women's soccer in the U.S. is that the most enduring memory is probably of Brandi Chastain whipping off her shirt at the Rose Bowl...twelve years ago.
After rocketing the US's Cup-winning penalty kick past Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong in the 1999 Women's World Cup, Chastain and her teammates became media darlings and overnight sensations, giving the suggestion that this was just the bump that was needed to push soccer into the forefront of the American sports-loving consciousness.
And yet, for the past two weeks, the top women's soccer teams from all over the world have been duking it out in stadiums around Germany for the sport's top prize and few seemed to have noticed. No splashy ad campaigns to drum up new slogans, or local drink specials to fete our ladies (who, unlike the men, actually make it past the quarterfinals every tourney). Bandwagoners from last year's men's World Cup--where are you? Unlike uppity Cubs fans, USWNT fans will actually welcome the Johhny-come-latelies. Just give our ladies a moment (or 90+) of your time!
In contrast to the men's 2010 tournament, little ink was given to what's arguably the biggest and most important all-women's tournament in the world. Most people had no idea the Cup, now in its dénouement, was even happening until the US squad notched a thrilling, double-ET and PK shootout victoryover Brazil in the quarterfinals this past Sunday (this clip gives you an idea of the action).
While we still may be debating whether the US wants to be a soccer nation or not, when it comes to women's soccer, that decision was made a long time ago. The US squad has dominated since their tournament began 20 years prior, and--apart from a few low points--have sustained a legacy of dominance like few other teams in sports. If you don't love them for being consistent winners, then love them for being tough, gritty never-quitters.
The mentality of the US women's team has always been strong as steel, yet the players have remained focused on teamwork, even the original superstars like Mia Hamm and Chastain rejected the "all about me" attitude. Also absent are the bad-behavior freak-outs, doping scandals and myriad indiscretions that tarnish a sports hero; these are players whose attitudes you'd actually want your kids to mimic.
With any luck, a victory for the US team will kickstart interest in soccer and, with even more luck, create a fanbase that will help sustain teams like the recently-revived Chicago Red Stars. If this dream sequence were to become a reality, Chicago would be a great place for the movement to take root. Our city can teach the rest of the country a thing or two about sports loyalty, loving our winners and losers with equal force.
Tomorrow the women will face off against France in the semi-finals, a team that has had a revealing tournament run so far, dispatching Nigeria, Canada and England, losing so far only to Germany. If the ladies squad pulls through, they'll face the winner of tomorrow's Japan v Sweden match.
Chicago soccer bar favorites Small Bar, Ginger's Ale House and the Globe Pub will all be open for the 11 a.m. CST match time, broadcasting the full game with audio. Any re-broadcasts of the game run by ESPN, ESPN3 or Galavision will be shown at Small Bar without audio; The Globe will record the match on DVR and will show replays by request.
So tomorrow, pretend you're a baseball fan and find a creative excuse to blow off work for the game. It seems only right that we show our national team what we usually don't--our support--since they give us what our men's team never has: a real shot at winning.
U.S. WNT v France - 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semifinal in Mönchengladbach, Germany broadcasts at 11 a.m. CST on ESPN, ESPN3.com and Galavision Wednesday July 12