Last night an absolute legend in women’s sport retired. At age 35 and in her 255th international match with the US Women’s National Team, Abby Wambach played her final minutes of soccer and with a mighty mic drop after thanking the record crowd of over 30,000 fans, she was out.
While the game itself was mostly lack-luster for the US ending in a 1-0 defeat to China, Wambach’s National Team playing career was anything but.
Wambach first appeared for the USWNT in 2001 and over the years her imposing physical presence at 5’11” and style of play made her an out-and-out force to be reckoned with. Opponents dreaded playing against her and for good reason. She scored goals. Lots of them.
Abby holds the National Team scoring record for most goals with 184 (she surpassed the great Mia Hamm in 2013), is third all-time in assists, has 2 Olympic Gold Medals and finally, after 4 tries, capped off her career with a well-earned FIFA Women’s World Cup championship this past July. Even with her success on the field, she stayed humble and true to her fans always taking time to thank them and pause for post- game autographs with a smile.Embed from Getty Images
Her incredible playing stats will stand as the best in the game for some time but the legacy she leaves behind goes well beyond just numbers.
A confident (but never cocky) leader, Abby Wambach inspired millions of fans with her hard-work and confidence on the field and her unfiltered advocacy against obvious injustices off.
Always one to let her opinions be known, she often matter-of-factly calls out cases of gender inequality in sport. This past summer leading up to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, Abby led the charge in speaking out about the inferior playing surfaces the women are made to play on in FIFA tournaments (Artificial turf vs. the natural grass surfaces the men’s teams play on). A lawsuit was filed against FIFA by players but was eventually dropped before the tournament began. (Update: This war has not been settled).
In her post-playing career Wambach is passionate about furthering women’s sports and working towards gender equality on the field and off.
An emotional Gatorade commercial titled “Forget Me” which aired during the game last night foreshadowed what is to come for Wambach:
She also recently stated in a letter to fans, family and teammates on ussoccer.com:
“You have to have laser-focus to excel at whatever you do and for 30 years, my focus was soccer. But now, the blinders are off and all of the ideas about what my future will hold are running through my head and heart. Whatever path I take, I know I will take it with the same kind of effort and relentlessness that I showed during my career on the field.”
Using that same fire and passion that lit her up on the field in her future ventures to further the women’s game? THAT is a VERY exciting prospect. We cannot wait to see what comes next for Abby Wambach and for the future of women’s sports.
To Abby: Thank You for your inspired play, your passion, your strong yet humble leadership. You have truly inspired a generation of girls (and their moms!) to pursue their dreams no matter what they are and to have confidence in everything they do.