Soccer Star Sparks Boomlet in Black America

By Kinnon, Joy Bennett | Ebony, January 2000 | Go to article overview

Soccer Star Sparks Boomlet in Black America


Kinnon, Joy Bennett, Ebony


IT was the "You, go, girl!" heard around the world. More than 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl, the largest audience ever to watch a women's sporting event, and countless millions crowded around television sets around the world collectively leapt to their feet and cheered when U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry rejected China's shot in the World Cup championship.

And they haven't stopped cheering since, making Scurry possibly the most famous African-American from Minnesota since The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

With her dramatic World Cup feat last summer and even before that, this soft-spoken Olympic gold medalist boosted soccer's popularity among girls in particular and African-American children in general. "I am proud of my heritage, and I take very seriously my role of showing African-American youth and people in general that we can excel in any sport or anything," she says. She says she knows her own nieces and nephews have tried soccer because she is playing.

Soccer was one of many sports Scurry, the youngest of eight children, played as a child growing up in suburban Minneapolis. "I played softball, basketball, ran some track and didn't start playing soccer until I was 12 years old," she says.

Although "soccer moms" is a code for upwardly mobile White families--who have forgotten that the greatest soccer player of all times was Pele--the sport has not developed a mass following in Black America.

The only African-American starter on the U.S. World Cup team, Scurry is seeking to change that perception. "It's one of my goals and it's a team goal as well to get more young girls and boys involved in soccer in general and it seems to be working," she says, as a large group of young soccer players surround her, chanting her name as if she were Lauryn Hill.

Scurry, who is 28 and single, is on a cross-country tour to promote soccer among Black children. She reportedly has asked the World Cup team sponsors to send her to big cities for clinics. "Soccer is pretty much a suburban elitist sport [in the United States]," she says. "It always has been." On this day, she was conducting a mini-clinic for Black and White American Youth Soccer Organization players on Chicago's South Side. Scurry is visiting AYSO games as a guest of Allstate Insurance Co., an official sponsor of the Toys `R' Us Victory Tour. …

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