Blog Post

Why The 1999 World Cup Still Matters

Featured image credit: 1999 USWNT via Tumblr

1999 was a special year for women’s soccer (FYI – This post will be U.S.-centric as I live in California, but my hope is that there is something special in it for all football lovers around the world). It was the first time the Women’s World Cup was held in the U.S. and the first time the games were televised live. It was also the first time people were talking about the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) and how “they were actually very good players.” (Of course they were, jack*sses. Women athletes are always bad*ss.) Players such as Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy (she went to my high school!) and Kristine Lilly were stacked alongside some of the greatest male footballers, like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Zinedine Zidane. People were excited to watch the games, particularly young girls who (myself included) finally had some validation that they were good enough, and that playing the game mattered.

mia hamm julie foudy_via wordpressJulie Foudy & Mia Hamm on the field via WordPress
mia hamm julie foudyJulie Foudy and Mia Hamm all dressed up

As the USWNT barreled their way through each game, having only one scare against Germany in the quarterfinals, the momentum picked up. Over 90,000 people attended the final match against China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which went on to be one of the most memorable games, not only in the history of women’s soccer, but the history of women’s sports.
Watching the match was grueling, as it was nil-nil at the end of regulation time, went into double overtime and eventually to a shootout (which, for those who have never played before, is just as nail-biting for the fans as it is for the players). Each player has one chance to score a goal against the opposite goalkeeper. If the goals are still tied after five players have gone, a sixth player is chosen. When Brandi Chastain kicked the ball with her left foot and won the game, the entire country celebrated with pride – the same pride they would have celebrating their favorite baseball team winning the World Series, or their favorite (American) football team winning the Super Bowl. We were united over women’s soccer, something I don’t think any of us expected, at least not that early in the sport’s history.

AP QUICK HITS THE 99ERS S SOC FILE USA CABrandi Chastain – AP Photo/The San Francisco Examiner, Lacy Atkins, File

I think we can all agree, though, that the above image was the most iconic moment of that World Cup, and an image that will be imprinted in the minds of everyone around the world who watched the game that day. Brandi’s sports bra on national television symbolized much more than a World Cup win; it symbolized the moment that women’s sports had “made it,” that Title IX helped women athletes achieve their rightful place next to men, that women have to work twice as hard as men just to get recognized. This was validation that we are on the same level. That we are just as good – if not, better, than them.
Let’s show them again just how amazing we are 16 years later.