The first of my Crest Dissected series saw me focus on FC Barcelona and their origins, I now take a look into the growing world of women’s football and particularly that of the USA. I shall l be looking at the badge of the recently folded Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) but mainly investigating the beginnings of a game which for women is more popular than all the traditional American sports. With that in mind this probably isn’t a Crest Dissected but more a look at how near a total gender demographic of a country has adopted something totally alien to it not much longer ago than 30 years.
|Women's Professional Soccer Badge|
If you asked most people to name American superstars from the modern game then you’d probably get answers such as Landon Donovan, Brad Friedel or Clint Dempsey but what about the women? Well if you followed football more thoroughly then you’d know about Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone or Alex Morgan but there are two ladies that changed the game of Women’s football like none other: Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. Two women who will go down in the short history of the sport and have lasting ties with the game still.
Kristine Lilly, 352 caps/130 goals for U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) between 1987-2010, taking her to 5 World Cups and 3 Olympics. Lilly won 2 World Cups, including the first ever one in 1991 and Olympic gold twice as well as holding the record for most appearances in international football including the men’s game. Lilly’s club career while not as distinguished is still impressive, she played for the North Carolina Tar Heels who represented the University of North Carolina and won the NCAA Women’s Championship every season she played (4) but due to the lack of professional soccer leagues on leaving university her career was made much tougher. It meant spending time in women’s football mad Sweden, upon her return to America she joined Washington Warthogs in the Continental Indoor Soccer League making her the only woman to play in the male professional league. She also made history as a founder of the Boston Breakers becoming captain in the inaugural season of Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), playing every minute of their first season. When the league closed Lilly went back to Sweden but her final move was back to the re-founded Boston Breakers a few years later in the inaugural year of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) 2009 playing every minute of the season once more. Lilly is a true hero to women’s soccer also proving it is possible to have a child and continue playing. In 2008 she missed the Olympics due to the birth of her baby but less than 6 months later she was back playing and finally retired from football altogether in 2011.
Mia Hamm is currently USWNT’s all time leading goalscorer, she retired in 2004 with 158 goals in 275 caps for the national team. Figures that seemed impossible after being born with a club foot and spending much of her infant days having various corrective measures. She overcame this and like Lilly also played for the North Carolina Tar Heels winning 4 championships, the side only lost 1 game of the 95 Hamm played in. Hamm was the youngest player to debut for the national side at the age of 15 in 1987 and was part of the USWNT side who won the first FIFA Women’s World Cup. Also like Lilly she won another World cup in front of 90,000 fans in 1999 and 2 Olympic Golds. Hamm did have some success at club level too with Washington Freedom winning the WUSA Founders cup. Hamm is the more recognised household name so it came as somewhat of a shock when in 2004 she quit the game to focus on starting a family. Hamm’s legacy rolls on though with her silhouette being used on the WPS badge and the Mia Hamm Foundation formed to help those with bone marrow problems after the death of her brother.
Women’s football in general is growing worldwide, it is now much more accepted and popular, not least due to its impressive showing at the 2012 Olympics. Personally, after attending numerous matches of both the men and women’s game I must say I enjoyed the ladies football far more! Hamm and Lilly have been replaced by world stars such as Brazil’s Marta and England’s Kelly Smith who have spent time plying their trade in the US and home grown talent continues to dominate as Rampone chases Lilly’s appearance record and Wambach the goalscoring record. Ultimately, while the male game across the pond has not always been successful or appealing, women’s soccer continues to go from strength to strength. Should the funding be sorted to keep the new 2013 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) going then without doubt the club game will be able to live up to that of USWNT and the Swedish and English leagues. This is a prime chance for Soccer to establish itself across America, their 4th gold medal in 2012 will most likely be followed by another final to come in the 2015 World Cup. Women’s football on a global scale continues to grow with British stars like Steph Houghton, Kim Little and Karen Carney taking up the mantel here following Team GB heroics. I’d certainly recommend taking a look at some of the women’s football on show, anyone telling you the quality is worse than amateur men’s (as I have heard) hasn't sat down and watched some matches... And for me it’s just another chance to watch football!!
|Successful USWNT - 2012 Olympic gold medalists|
Gareth - TFHB (Follow me on Twitter @GJ_Thomas)
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