Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Women's World Cup to Remember

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Women's World Cup to Remember

Article excerpt

In 1985 the US women's soccer team was such an afterthought that it only received its uniforms the day before it was to depart for an international tournament. The outfits turned out to be in men's sizes: Team members spent the night cutting and sewing to make them fit.

What a contrast to this year's women's FIFA World Cup tournament, capped by a dominating 5-2 win by the United States over defending champion Japan. Interest in US women's soccer has soared in the interim, and Sunday's championship match may turn out to be the most- watched soccer match - men's or women's - ever on US television when final numbers are released.

The victory embedded the US women as the dominant team in women's soccer (called football outside the US). Though it was their first World Cup championship since 1999, the team has remained a top contender, most recently losing the finals to Japan in 2011 on penalty kicks. The US team also has won four Olympic gold medals in five tries.

Commentators used words like "fast," "skilled," "determined," and a "joy to behold" to describe the US team's play. These world-class athletes showed what a blend of talent, training, and teamwork can accomplish.

This, too, seems light-years away from 2003, when then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the highest-ranking figure in world soccer, suggested that women players could boost interest in their game by wearing "tighter shorts."

Today, "We're talking about them as athletes, rather than some of the conversations we had in '99 [when the US last won the World Cup] - 'My God, who are these women? They're kind of hot!' " said Julie Foudy, a star midfielder on that 1999 team.

In 2015 men's international pro soccer has been beset by scandals and is sorely in need of reform. Mr. Blatter has been forced to step down amid charges that high-ranking FIFA officials engaged in bribery and racketeering.

The women's World Cup provided a welcome summertime relief from the men's game, which has become grim and cynical in comparison. …

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