Unless you’ve been disconnected this summer you’ve probably heard that the Final of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup was played in Vancouver this past weekend and the women of the U.S. National Team played the most inspired game of their lives and came out victorious over Japan 5-2 – bringing home their first World Cup trophy in 16 years.
26.7 million television viewers tuned into the match, the highest for any soccer match in U.S. history and over 54,000 people packed the stands at BC Place to cheer on their team— my family included. Those who attended in person will agree — no television, print or online coverage could have done justice to the absolutely electrifying atmosphere that filled Vancouver over the weekend.
Stepping off the train into the city, every street was filled with American fans who traveled from near and far to cheer on the players of the U.S. Women’s National Team. There were a few Japanese fans sprinkled about but an overwhelming majority of people were there for the U.S.
Entire families, husbands, wives, partners, friends and teammates were there decked out in their patriotic gear. Girls wore their Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach jerseys. Boys wore their Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach jerseys. Kids young and old kicked a ball around in impromptu pick up matches, engaged in knowledgeable discussions about soccer and gave out high- fives and “Go USA!” everywhere you went.
You could feel such a positive spirit of camaraderie in the air. These weren’t just fans who came to watch a soccer match– these were passionate, positive supporters of the team and of women’s soccer.
And then there was the game. The Final of all Finals. As soon as they came out of the locker room, the U.S. Team made it clear they were confident and that this was their day. They played their strongest soccer of the tournament and with clinical finishing put away 4 of their 5 goals within just 16 minutes to seal the victory. They played with all their heart, tenacity and left everything they had out on the field. It was the most beautiful game of soccer I have ever witness and sent a clear message to all the kids in the stands: Never. Give. Up.
When the final whistle went every single player on the team was overcome with emotion. Tears of joy ran rampant (on the field and in the stands!). Players ran right over to the section where their families sat, eager to be reunited with them during the celebration. Forward Amy Rodriguez’s son and Captain Christie Rampone’s daughters played in the confetti on the podium. And of course the moment Abby Wambach found her wife Sarah and celebrated with a kiss. These moments were beautiful.
Immediately after the post-game celebration subsided the internet was flooded with stats, analysis and opinion articles on the massive World Cup prize money disparity between the Men’s and Women’s teams, how to grow the women’s game, what to do about the corrupt, sexist organization that is FIFA and even what comes next for this dominant U.S. Women’s Team.
How we move forward on these issues is of extreme importance and we certainly want to strike while the topic is hot.
But this week the players are living in the moment, celebrating their hard earned victory across the nation — appearances in LA and NY (with a historic ticker tape parade), kicking balls out of the ESPN studio windows and throwing out first pitches at baseball games. This is their moment— their celebration and they are living in the moment. I will be doing the same.
In the on-going uphill battle towards gender equality I don’t want to lose the moments that made this FIFA Women’s World Cup Final so insanely special and unforgettable. The Final which will be remembered as legendary, the absolutely inspired play of Carli Lloyd and her historic hat-trick, celebrating goals and dancing in the stands with my daughter, the joy on the faces of each U.S. player and the electrifying atmosphere that took over the city of Vancouver.
I want to relish these incredible moments for just a bit longer before I jump back in to fight the good fight.
But next week — that’s a different story! Bring it.