The 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup has just finished, and Japan are the new women's world champions. We've been following the tournament for a couple of weeks, and I'm one of the many fans disappointed that Japan beat the US for the top prize. Alfie and I were really hoping the US Women's Team would win, first of all because they deserved it (not to detract from Japan's performance, they were amazing and I was really impressed with their Barcelona-esque passing game, but the US played a better game), and second because it would have meant so much to the development of soccer in the US. When Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain et al won the World Cup in 1999, they became heroes and role models for girls all across the US, and had this team won the tournament, soccer would be poised to become more popular than ever. Americans love a winner, and a win would have guaranteed front-page news, tv interviews, Wheaties boxes -- and a resurgence of interest in soccer -- for a long, long time.
Hopefully all is not lost. They may be the runners-up, but there's no shortage of role models and heroes on the US Women's Team. They were ranked #1 in the world coming into this tournament and they showed it. They played their hearts out and they never gave up. Hopefully the US media will realize this and keep people like Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach in the spotlight.
Especially Abby Wambach. I have to admit, at first I wasn't sure about all the hype surrounding Wambach in the earlier stages of the tournament, but she won me over. Sure, she's great with headers, but so are a lot of other players. What I admire most about Wambach are her actions away from the ball. I saw her constantly running around the pitch, fighting for the ball, fighting for space. In their quarterfinal game against Brazil, I saw her encouraging her teammates, shouting "Come on! We can do this!" even when it seemed like they were going to lose. And after the final with Japan, after it was all over, while her teammates were still standing in shock or consoling each other, Abby Wambach was congratulating the Japanese team, shaking their hands and hugging the team captain, Homare Sawa. Now that's class.
Abby Wombach may not have won the World Cup, but she's still a winner, and she's definitely a hero. Check out the definition at Merriam-Webster if you have any doubts:
1 a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b : an illustrious warrior
c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d : one who shows great courage
2 a : the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
b : the central figure in an event, period, or movement
3 plural usually he·ros : submarine 2
4: an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol
Ignoring definition #3 (since I have no clue what they're talking about) as well as all gender references (Seriously, Merriam-Webster? How sexist is that?), Abby Wambach is a hero through and through. Illustrious warrior? Check. Admired for achievements and noble qualities? Check. Great courage? Check. Central figure in an event? Double check. Object of extreme admiration and devotion? Check, and I hope that stays true for a long time.
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