A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women's Football

By Jean Williams | Go to book overview
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1
The Girls of Summer, the Daughters of Title IX
Women’s Football in the United States1

When a girl learns to make a sacrifice at home in the same manner as she makes a sacrifice
hit on the ball team, the play programme has certainly made a definite contribution. This
transfer may be hard to secure but not impossible. A girl who plays on any team soon
learns to respect the rights of others, the opinion of others, and the rules of the game.
A girl must learn that it is more important to win respect from an opponent than to win
a game, and that sportsmanship does not end with the playing of the game but carries
over into all of life’s situations.2

Said the Sporting Goods Journal last year: ‘Sporting goods dealers have suddenly become
awakened to the fact that there is more profit in playing for the trade of the ladies than in
catering exclusively for men.’ The growing participation of women in sport during recent
years is as striking as the change from bloomers of 1900 to the shorts of 1935. It may
or may not be an exaggeration to say that women play many games today to be seen in
costume; but the point is that they play.3

The Olympic closing ceremony in Athens in September 2004 could be interpreted as marking the end of a chapter for women’s association football in the United States. The US team flag-bearer was the triple Olympic medallist Mia Hamm, star player of the women’s national soccer team and the professional women’s league (Women’s United Soccer Association), twice World Cup champion, five times national player of the year and Nike-sponsored icon. The Women’s National Team had won gold; a victory that made up in small part for the semifinal exit in the 2003 World Cup (defeated by the winners, Germany, 3–0) in Los Angeles. The following ten-game ‘Fan Celebration Tour’ served as a last opportunity to see Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett in a women’s national team that had transcended sport and had made front-page news. Kristine Lilly and Brandi (it’s not about the bra) Chastain also toured, though Michelle Akers did not.4 The six had been part an exclusive club known as the ‘91ers; the team which won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup, in 1991, in China. Though Akers retired from international football after the US repeated the victory in the 1999 World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, in Los Angeles, she preceded Hamm as the figurehead in a team which at that point had never placed below third in any of the seven senior women’s events and had won two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals. The 1999 World Cup final was

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