So, there was this little thing that happened the summer I turned twelve years old. The US Women's national soccer team won the World Cup. At the time, women did not have a professional league in which to play so this was quite the platform for young girls to see their role models. And boy did I ever give into the hype! It was that summer that I decided that soccer was going to be a BIG part of my life forever. Two players in particular stood out more than the others. The first, you probably know better with her shirt off. Brandi Chastain. What a fire cracker! For those who don't know or don't remember, the World Cup final against China came down to a penalty kick shoot out in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl on July 10, 1999. Chastain was the fifth player to shoot and needed to score to win the game. And win the game she did with a celebration that would change the way the sports world looked at women. That iconic photo of Brandi bearing her sports bra is known the world over for showing both power and femininity or as I like to call it: Girl Power! I got Brandi's autograph at a soccer game. I met her at a soccer game where she was promoting a charitable tribute match honoring her career and her retirement from professional soccer. I was so floored and star-struck so what did I do? I called my mom and dad, of course! I was on cloud nine just for having met her and the following soccer game, she was there again and my mom, being the awesome person that she is, asked Brandi to autograph that famous picture of her for me. It reads: "Alyssa, Dreams do come true! - Brandi Chastain" This sits within eyesight while I fall asleep.
The second autograph is the kicker! No pun intended. I can't even stand the suspense...it was Mia Hamm! I have Mia Hamm's autograph!!! I was at that tribute match where celebrities all came out to play. Hamm came to the bottom of the stands to sign autographs at halftime and I was right in there with all the other 9-14 year old girls jostling around, trying to wait patiently for my hero to sign her name in this book that happened to be in my backpack. Coincidentally, it was a book about that World Cup win in 1999. The advantage to acting like a 10 year old but being 23 years old? Height. I was able to reach over all the little girls with my arm outstretched. Honestly, I didn't even see her sign the book. But I felt her pen and it was glorious!
See that soccer ball in the middle? Mia Hamm's head is just below that. You can see her pony tail.
You see for me and my generation, the name Mia Hamm literally defines women's soccer in the United States. She was fast. She was physical. She was hungry for victory. But she was also shy and considerate and mild mannered. She was like me and I was like her. And her autograph I will cherish forever and ever because I can honestly say that Mia Hamm truly is the reason I am where I am today.