Every naysayer of women’s soccer is quick to comment on the game’s slower pace, the inability of some teams to possess the ball, and lack of finishes in front of the net. And although these points can be argued until supporters are blue in the face, there’s one thing the opponents can’t deny: it’s passion. Women can get just as fired up and hot-headed as the men, with some of the best rivalries rekindled at only the pull of a shirt. And the best news is that the most fiery of these players are wearing the colors of the teams in the WPS.
So the next time you hear the women’s game has no heart, remind the blockheads of these fine facts:
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in 2004 anymore
Love her or hate her for voicing her opinion about being benched by then-coach Greg Ryan at the 2007 Women’s World Cup for the semi-final match against Brazil, you must give Hope Solo props for being courageous and confident. And when was the last time you heard a women’s national team soccer player speak with such cocky conviction? (I’m disregarding, of course, Swedish midfielder Caroline Seger’s remarks about her mere presence on the field bringing better odds that her national team would advance farther into the tournament. Next time, Seger. Next time.)
With Ryan’s fateful decision and Solo’s simple words, U.S. women’s soccer got its first taste of tried and true controversy, and for a least a week, Solo was America’s pony-tailed bad girl. But after hearing all that big talk and licking our wounds after yet another crushing U.S. defeat at the game’s Big Show, didn’t we all think—even if only for a moment—What if she could have made those saves?
Marta: WPS’s Golden Girl a lethal punching, kicking assassin
When Marta received her formal introduction by Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles’ sports community, she did so with such grace and charm. What a smile! What an attractive, demur young woman!
So imagine my surprise to come across these clips of her seriously knocking heads for Ümea IK in the Damallsvenskan. Not only can she nail the ball into the net with serious force and tact, but she can also take your head along with it.
Bringing ’em down just as hard as Man U back-liners
There’s one instance to which I constantly refer to make my point, although, of course, there are plenty of others. But back to old reliable. It happened during the WUSA’s most exciting year, 2003, when the Washington Freedom hosted the Boston Breakers at RFK Stadium. I will not waste your time commenting on the lack of control clearly displayed by the referees scheduled that day, but I will say this—bodies were flying. What will always be affectionately known as the Red Card Game (at least in my home) can serve as Exhibit A of how the women’s game can truly get out of hand in the very best way possible.
It started with the visitors making the home squad look like a junior varsity team after a regroup following the Freedom’s first goal. And then Mia Hamm practically riding Maren Meinert’s back into the center of the field. And then Angela Hucles grabbing Jackie Little’s head and slamming it down into the pitch in front of both teams’ benches. And then Abby Wambach going after Heather Aldama’s planted leg as the Breakers’ defender attempted to clear it away.
Don’t believe me? Well then, my friends, the action speaks louder than words.
Not matter what, Brazil will always have your number
Shannon Boxx couldn’t even watch. She put her hands on her face and, like every fan of the U.S. team, wished the moment away. It’s difficult to comprehend exactly how her feet got tangled up with Christiane’s that day, but they did. And for the Brazilian, it was like finding gold, with her thumb and forefinger pressed together, mocking the delivery of Boxx’s second yellow, to be followed by the inevitable red, before her elbows even touched the ground. Veteran referee Nicole Petignat was quick to dismiss Boxx, and her decision was widely applauded by the hovering group of ecstatic Brazilians.
Brazilians, both men and women, are known for their crafty and dramatic performances on the field. Who forgets moments like this, or even this brilliant piece of acting from Christiane’s countryman Rivaldo? But the real question is, will Boxx look for revenge when she meets Christiane again when the Sol play Athletica?
Celebrate good times…with your lips on your boot and your shirt off your back
Soccer fans worldwide will always remember Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey after putting one by Chinese keeper Gao Hong to secure the gold at the 1999 World Cup in front of a home crowd. Fast-forward eight years to Kelly Smith’s brilliant goal against Japan in the 2007 cup, when the England midfield followed it up by removing her shoe and giving it one big, fat kiss in congratulations. It’s hard to believe both acts of jubilance were met with criticism and disapproval when, hey, isn’t this similar to how most soccer players celebrate their moments of brilliance? And although lively expressions like these aren’t found in the women’s game every weekend, they do prove the passion that women have for this game. Here’s to hoping we’ll see more of them.
Angela Tavares, Goal.com
For more on Women's Professional Soccer, go to Goal.com's Women's Soccer page.