By Melissa Turtinen
In our swimsuits, we crowded around a small television at a teammate’s house as we watched the United State’s Women’s National Team make history. The TV was strategically placed so the sun wouldn’t cause a glare and so we could see every play. We’d jump in the pool to stay cool and listen for updates from our teammates as we ran from the pool’s edge to the picnic table where TV sat.
It was July 10, 1999 and the final game of the Women’s World Cup was going into extra time against China. The score was 0-0. The entire 12 and Under Classic 1 soccer team I played on gathered around the TV. No goals – the game was headed for penalties. On the fifth kick, Brandi Chastain scored the game-winning goal for the US and proceeded to rip off her shirt – we instantly idolized her as we prepared for our own version of the World Cup just a few days later.
It was a summer gathering with my soccer team just days before the Schwan’s USA Cup – one of the world’s largest international youth soccer tournaments. As girls striving to play on the USWNT and in the Women’s World Cup we cheered, high-fived and jumped in the pool in celebration for USA’s win.
Two days later we’d be making the drive north of the Twin Cities to play against teams from various countries and states. Watching Chastain, Brianna Scurry and Mia Hamm was exactly what we needed to get us through the grueling six-day tournament in the harsh mid-summer heat.
Now, 12 years later, I sat in my living room without my teammates watching the USA defeat Korea DPR, 2-0, in its opening match of the 2011 Women’s World Cup. I remembered exactly how I felt in 1999 hoping the USA would do it again. It’s just the beginning of the long tournament, but they’re off to a good start.
It’s different growing up as a female athlete – there are professional sports, but it doesn’t get nearly the attention that men’s teams do. The World Cup, that comes but every four years, is a chance for all the girl soccer players to see what all of those long runs and hard practices can bring you.
This year, girls are gathered with their teammates watching Lauren Cheney and Rachel Buehler tally goals in their first World Cup appearance. The girls are prepping for their season, for their versions of the World Cup, for their moments to make history – I’d give just about anything to be in their cleats right now.
Melissa Turtinen is a contributing write for The Soccer Guys.