Soccer player Dennis Bergkamp once said, “When you start to support a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there: you found a place where you belong.” Each one of us have found a little of us with the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Somehow we’ll will ourselves to get up at 4 in the morning or 12 at night to watch them play. Why? Because it’s worth it. They make it worth it.
On June 20, 2013, history was made. Abby Wambach scored her 160th goal, surpassing Mia Hamm as the all time international goal scorer. But we need to establish something right now; for the record, this is not just in women’s soccer, this is in all international soccer, men’s included.
Unfortunately, her and the team’s performance was slightly overshadowed by Game 7 of the NBA finals; but there were 18,961 fans in the stadium plus countless others throughout the United States that would much rather watch this team and a player like Abby make history than a NBA final. For a while, the United States and the world were more excited about Abby Wambach than Game 7, her once reaching the top trending topic in the United States and eventually trending worldwide. For 5 minutes, the United States recognized that an icon of U.S. Soccer had just surpassed another legend and they set all other things aside, they set Lebron James and the Heat aside, because a leader of the team, a person in the forefront of women’s soccer for more than 9 years just did something no one else had ever done.
Isn’t it fitting that Lauren Cheney who replaced Wambach on the 2008 Olympic roster when she broke her leg, who assisted her 100th goal, assisted the record tying goal? And maybe it’s a little more fitting that Megan Rapinoe who assisted the “header heard ‘round the world” against Brazil in 2011 sent in a corner kick that Wambach finished with her head (fittingly) to pass the record. It all seemed like a fairy-tail story last night, and it did have a perfect ending.
As a sports country, we’re so used to the headlines being about male sports, the millions and millions of dollars they’re being paid, the good and the bad. Wambach and the USWNT are a breath of fresh air. They’re selfless, humble, always looking out for each other. They don’t get paid millions of dollars to do what they do, yet they always put on a good show. Those 18,961 fans in Harrison, New Jersey witnessed something that I’m sure they will never forget. Time and time again, Wambach’s teammates were sending her passes, crosses, anything and everything for her to get a hold of. And she came through: four times. Did she take any of the credit? Of course not, it’s all about the team in her eyes.
When the team rushed to Abby, when she sent number 159 into the back of the net, when the team cleared the bench and sprinted to her on field, I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face all night. We all could learn something from Abby, if not in a sporting sense, a personal sense. We could use her as an example of how to hold ourselves, how to be humble and gracious in what you do, and how to be a role model. Making history was, I’m sure, the last thing on her mind when the team pulled up to the Red Bull Arena. But when they pulled away, I’m sure history was on everyone’s mind. The team, thrilled for Abby and what she accomplished. Abby, she was probably thinking ahead to the future, to 2015 and the possibility that one day Alex Morgan could pass her. But, for now, Abby holds the record; she passed her once mentor, and one day Alex may pass her once mentor and the cycle could keep going. For now, let’s enjoy this for Abby. Because you know what, if you ask her how she scored 4 goals to reach 160 in 207 caps, we all know her answer. Two words: my teammates.
This is going to be short because I’m not sure if I can put what happened into words. What we saw tonight was a team that was determined, connected, together, and proud that their leader made history. When the USWNT players ran out onto the field and jumped on top of Abby Wambach, you couldn’t help but smile. For the past few games, they played every single ball to Abby, they wanted her to score; they wanted her to break the record. She did, and she did in style.
At the end of the game, she was quick to put all the credit on the team. Abby is so humble and sometimes I’m sure we all wish that she would credit herself once in a while. That’s probably not going to happen, but those 160 goals weren’t solely because she was in the right place at the right time. She had to work for every single one of them. When asked what she needs to work on in the future, she said one thing, “I want to assist Alex more, so she can break my record.” Looks like she’s not basking in the glory for too long, but it was fantastic while it lasted. 160 goals in 207 games, she has now surpassed her once mentor, Mia Hamm. Two classy, incredible legends, two different players, one quality that will forever be the same: leadership.
Abby is more vocal, she’s dominant in the air; Mia was quieter, with speed on the ground. Together, they formed a tandem that any player would fear. When Mia Hamm was asked to comment on this historic night, she said, “I’m just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun.”
While Abby may not want the center of attention on her, it will be on her for the near future. She broke the world record; she holds the most international goals in men or women’s soccer. June 20, 2013 was a night to remember, a night where one legend passed another.
Congratulations, Abby Wambach on this historic feat.