At age 38, the footballer Megan Rapinoe is retiring. She played her last U.S Women’s National Team game on Sunday (24) and will play her last home game for the O.L Reign on Oct. 6th. Pinoe, as she is best known in the soccer world, is a legend of the sport.
A key player in the four-time World Cup and Olympic champions most recent successes, the number 15 is celebrated around the world not only for her contributions on the pitch, but also off it. Here’s a list of the things that make her so special.
Big game player
One of the most famous comebacks in women’s soccer had the crucial participation of Rapinoe. It happened in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup against Brazil. With the teams tied at 1-1, the game had gone to extra time. Just two minutes into ET, Marta scored a beautiful goal, putting Brazil ahead. The South American team was practically just waiting for the referee to blow the whistle when, in the 122nd minute, Megan Rapinoe found a miraculous cross for Abby Wambach, who put the ball in the back of the net with a powerful header. The USA won the game on penalties.
Pinoe also played an important role in another hall of fame game: the London 2012 Olympic Games semi-final against Canada. She scored two goals and one of them was an Olympic goal. The match ended with a crazy 4-3 scoreline.
However, Megan Rapinoe’s best tournament was undoubtedly the 2019 World Championship in France, won by the USA. As well as being the captain of that team, she was also the top scorer in the whole competition, along with Alex Morgan, with six goals. She scored both goals in the round of 16 match against Spain and both goals in the quarterfinals against France. She also converted a penalty in the final against the Netherlands.
Human rights advocate
Very aware of the power of her voice, Megan Rapinoe has been an activist in the fight against racism, homophobia, transphobia and gender discrimination. She was one of the leaders of the movement for equal pay that led to the USWNT receiving the same amount of money and having the same rights as the men’s team. “It was almost as if we couldn’t lose, I said that many times. If the Federation won, everyone lost and if we won, everyone won,” she said about the lawsuit against U.S. Soccer during the World Cup.
Pinoe was also one of the athletes who followed NFL player Colin Kaeperninck‘s move to kneel in protest against police brutality against black people.
“When I kneel, I am facing the flag with my whole body, looking directly into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom – because I believe it is my responsibility, as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.”
Another battle that has always been a priority for Megan Rapinoe is the fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Discovering she was a lesbian in college, Pinoe came out during the 2012 Olympic Games. After winning the semi-final of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, she told the press: “Go gays. You can’t win a championship without gays on the team. That’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there.”
Even though she’s got a big personality on and off the field, Megan Rapinoe is undoubtedly a big team player. A natural leader, she always took responsibility for the team. “I think it’s given me such a sense of peace and confidence going into such big moments having you right there”, said teammate Rose Lavelle on her farewell video.
After scoring against Colombia in the 2012 Olympics, Pinoe took a note out of her sock that said: “Happy B-day Kreigy, we love you” in honor of Ali Krieger, who had missed the tournament due to a knee injury. The player was later informed that she had spelled Krieger’s name wrong, to which she responded: “That’s how it’s spelled in my phone … I guess that’s just how I spell it”.
Speaking about her friendship with Megan Rapinoe, Krieger said: “I know that our memories going out to dinners and things outside of soccer, were actually so much more memorable, other than winning championships”.
“Really spending quality time and building friendships in that pressure environment is really what matters most because you need your friends. You need your people that you can lean on through those tough times and through the best times — and I consider her to be that for me”
Unapologetic, authentic, funny
After scoring her first goal at the 2011 World Cup in Germany, Pinoe picked up a microphone from the floor and sang Born in the USA. Her teammates say that even when she was a rookie on the national team, she was always confident and hilarious.
“She just had this, like, swag about her even at that age. We’re all kind of a little uncomfortable with ourselves, and she just didn’t really have that. She kind of just was like, ‘This is me, my humor, my personality — take it or leave it.’ She just had gravity and she’s had that throughout as long as I’ve known her that people are just drawn to her. I was like, ‘Man, she’s really cool. I’m gonna try to be her friend'”, Becky Sauerbrunn told ESPN about her first time meeting Rapinoe.
That said, it’s clear that the professional will be missed by both her fans and her teammates, who loved her so much. It’s essential to recognize the number of milestones in the footballer’s career and the relevance of the legacy she leaves in the world of sport.
The article above was edited by Mariana do Patrocínio.
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