This past summer, the U.S. Women’s national soccer team won the World Cup. When they won, the players and the fans, both in France and at home, erupted in goosebump-forming cheers and screams of joy. Tears were streaming, fists were pumped, and confetti rained from the rafters. It could have been a celebration of the first World Cup the U.S. had ever won— except it wasn’t. It was the fourth championship for the heavily favored, defending championship team. Then what is it that makes this team special? Why was this fourth win so crucial to a team already destined for the history books?
Photo Credit: teamusa.org
Perhaps the answer can be found somewhere deep in sports statistics: some obscure record that was created with that win. Perhaps the answer can be found in the shining eyes of millions of young girls across the U.S., watching as a team of women prove their worth in a sport that views them as inferior. Or perhaps the answer lies in the hearts of millions of young men and women, listening as a pink-haired heroine was taunted by a powerful, insecure man, and then succeeded in proving him wrong.
Photo Credit: Time
The win that day didn’t signify just another championship for a sports team. It stood as evidence that when this team demanded equal pay for women from FIFA, they didn’t just talk the talk. They proceeded to walk the walk and to do so with gusto. When criticized in the media for arrogant celebrations and lack of civility, they argued back that a man in the same situation, at the same level of competition, is lauded for his flair. The women’s team won that day, standing for equal rights in salary and showing that their talent equals their celebrating.
Photo Credit: Maya Fajardo
Post-tournament smiles in God-knows-what city from a happy 16-year-old Maya.
Soccer is the sport I credit for giving me my voice. Soccer taught me how to be a teammate, how to push when I thought I couldn’t push any further— it taught me about perseverance, competition, and what it meant to be able to both give and take direction. I was born with a physical backbone, but soccer is what gave me my mental one. It was my first love, and still one of my greatest, and that is why this win has meant so much to me. Soccer gave the U.S. Women’s team their voice, and in doing so, it gave me and millions of others our idols— ones that look like us, and are fighting for the same issues that I, and that women all over the U.S. will have to fight for.