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The 99ers: Why They Matter to Me

by Annie Hoertkorn, intern at MissRepresentation.org

For the past eight weeks, espnW has been airing a documentary series called “Nine For IX”. Each movie has presented a spectacular moment (good and bad) that changed the course of women’s sports. Each week, I’ve watched in amazement the journey of these women and the courage they had to achieve greatness. However, this week’s documentary “The 99ers” resonates deeply as a chapter of my own personal history.

In 1999, I was part of something amazing. Something that will forever remind me of the power of women and teamwork. My older sister and I grew up playing soccer and idolized Mia Hamm (I was a forward and wore #9), Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and Michelle Ackers (I could name the whole team for you but you get the idea…). These were the women we looked up to, the women we wanted to be like, these were our role models. My dad was just as thrilled as we were about our new role models – women kicking butt and taking names. When he presented us with tickets to the 1999 Women’s World Cup final in Pasadena, he had no idea he had just provided his girls the opportunity to witness one of the most historic events in sports…period.

As we drove to the Rose Bowl that morning you could just feel the excitement and camaraderie pulsing through the air. I looked around me and realized that the crowd was not just young soccer players and their parents, but also grown men and women who looked like they had never touched a soccer ball in their life. This was more than a women’s soccer team, this was an American soccer team and everyone was out to witness America’s team win the World Cup.

While you can read about the specific details of the game on the internet, what you will not hear about is how the Rose Bowl arena seemed to be frozen in time. The world was still as we watched this team leave their hearts out on the field only to end in a tie. As a soccer player, I never liked shoot-outs. I felt like they meant we did not do enough out on the field. However, if we ever encountered one in a game, I trusted that my team was going to finish on top. When the women’s US team found themselves facing a shoot-out, I like to think that they knew they were about to finish on top.

This was the moment that proved to young girls, like my sister and I, that we could conquer the world.

The moment that changed history – when Brandi Chastain stepped up to the goal box. The air was quiet and I remember thinking she has to do this. She has to win. I needed her to score. She took her time, set up her shot, and then kicked the ball. If there was an image next to the word “pandemonium” in the dictionary, this moment would be it. Chastain ripped off her shirt, ran towards the goal, and slid in on her knees with her fists clenched and her face elated. I can still hear the roar of the crowd. I remember trying to navigate the heads of bouncing fans so I could see what was happening on the field and I was feeling just as proud as the women down on the field.

The thing about this team and about this game wasn’t that America won. It wasn’t that a women’s soccer team made it to the World Cup. In this glorious moment, this team was genderless and universal. These were the women and this was the moment that proved to young girls, like my sister and I, that we could conquer the world.

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Posted in: Sports