When Mia Hamm walked into the FIFA World Football Museum presented by Hyundai for the first time, she immediately saw the exhibition’s centerpiece: a painting by acclaimed artist Rachel Gadsden that uses Hamm as the inspiration.
“It was an emotional experience for me,” Hamm said of seeing Gadsden’s work. The legendary American striker also had the chance to meet Gadsden in person at the museum in Paris.
“Having the conversation with Rachel and talking about when she was painting it, she wanted to get into my soul,” Hamm said. “For me, when I played, that's what I wanted to share. That’s how I played.”
The painting is part of the museum that charts the history of women’s football as well as the seven World Cups that took place between 1991 and 2015, leading up to this year's edition in France.
“I think it's really important that people understand the history of women’s football,” Hamm said. “A lot of us think it started in 1991 but women have been playing this game for over 150 years, and I think to celebrate that and to shed light on it is important.”
The current World Cup in France is creating even more history, with the tournament now down to the last seven teams after England beat Norway in the first quarterfinal on Thursday night.
Though all four quarterfinals are intriguing matchups in their own right, all eyes will be on Friday night’s showdown between the defending champion U.S. and host nation France in Paris.
Hamm is hopeful that the U.S. can defeat the powerful French side but knows it won’t be easy, and predicts that the winner of the quarterfinal will go on to lift the trophy in Lyon on July 7.
“[They are] two teams that play attractive soccer, play attacking soccer, they don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Hamm said. “They’re athletic, they’re tactical, they’re technical.
“[France’s] front seven is scary on both sides. I think whoever wins this game will win the tournament.”
Beyond the game on the field, though, Hamm is hoping that the glamorous matchup will be another big moment in the growth of the women’s game.
“I think it’s incredibly important because a lot of what certain critics say is the game doesn’t sell. Well, this one sure is,” Hamm said.
“I know in the U.S. everyone is talking about it. I can’t wait to see what the television numbers are. I think it’s an important step for our game to have this happen.”
Before the game on Friday, Hamm had the chance to tour the museum, which is operating under the message of “True Passion,” symbolizing the devotion of Hyundai and FIFA to women’s empowerment worldwide.
So what is Hamm’s true passion?
“When I played, it was football,” Hamm said. “It’s what I feel brought the best out of me and asked the most out of me.
“Since playing my true passion is my family. I feel the most important job that I have right now is trying to create values and memories for our kids, and make them conscientious and kind members of society.”