By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor
I was raised on the soccer field. It’s an integral part of who I am. To me, soccer isn’t just a sport, it’s a mindset. It’s a set of life skills. It’s a lifestyle. The grass taught me to step up. The dirt taught me to be tough. The white lines taught me to use boundaries to my advantage. The posts taught me focus and determination. The ball taught me about control and patience. And my teammates taught me that we are “strong alone, unstoppable together.”
I still remember watching the championship game in 1999 between the US and China; the nail biting penalty kick shoot out, when Briana Scurry saved China’s third shot, and Brandi Chastain shot the winning goal. Seeing women celebrated for their skill, talent, and strength was a defining moment for me at nine years old. I looked up to these women, not just as players, but also as people.
That’s why, fifteen years later I’m on the edge of my seat cheering on these incredible women. Because I know how important it is. I know the impact of this tournament. And we really need to talk about it, because it matters. It matters in terms of gender and representation. It matters in terms of visibility and growing popularity. It matters because of the turf controversy. It matters because there’s still a stigma against women in the sport, and while pro players like Marta from Brazil are proving her worth and skill on the pitch, we still have a long way to go.
Group play is coming to a close this week and the knock out rounds will start soon. While I’m excited to see incredible plays and watch the journey of each team to the finals, I’m more enthralled by the character and decency of these women within a state of competition. Last week I watched the goalie for Thailand help an Ivory Coast striker stretch out a potential injury on the field during the first half of their game. It was not a big moment or a game changing play. It was quiet and brief and profound. It was a moment of pure sportsmanship and human compassion. It was a moment that young girls and young boys need to see more of.
I’m lucky to still be playing soccer recreationally on two different coed teams with my friends. I’ve reconnected with girls I played competitively with in high school. I’ve bonded with guys who appreciate what I have to offer the game. To this day, I know I am strong alone, but unstoppable with them playing alongside me. We work hard. We play hard. We cheer hard. I’m looking forward to how this tournament plays out, not just for the United States, but for every team fighting for the chance to prove themselves to the world. Everyone deserves that chance.
For information on the tournament visit: http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/
Game Schedule: http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/matches/index.html
Let's chat! Have you been watching the World Cup? What has been your favorite moment? Who is your favorite player? team? Share with us here!
Devin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.
image via bangkokbobbysports.wordpress.com