I am the co-creator and editor of Cheeky Backheel. This piece is from a podcast I do weekly with three other members of Cheeky Backheel. We end each episode with a segment titled In-Direct Free Kick. Where each of us gives a 3-5 minute piece on some soccer related topic. This piece on Abby Wambach, her Ballon d’Or, and the state of American Soccer is my In-Direct Free Kick piece from Episode 20.
Abby Wambach won her first Ballon d’Or (Player of the Year) Monday, January 7th. Becoming the second American woman alongside Mia Hamm to be recognized by FIFA with the Women’s World Player of the Year honor.
This was more than a standout moment for Abby Wambach and US Women’s Soccer. It was a standout moment for American soccer.
Guys, listen up, put down your beers, and get ready to start a new sports conversation I’m starting tonight.
It’s time we recognize, and by we, I mean men, that women’s soccer in America has excelled beyond men.
Four Olympic Gold Medals, and two World Cups should be enough to speak for themselves. But unfortunately, that has not been the case so far.
Part of the reason, is that sadly, there have been two failed professional women’s leagues. But the third is underway. This one is different. Unique. It includes Portland and Seattle. Arguably the two hotbeds for players, coaches, owners, advertisers, and soccer supporters. So, the “third time’s a charm cliche’, may yet be proven true.
This new league, the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) is improved over the past two leagues by including a quality mix of US Women’s National Team members along side Canada’s and Mexico’s Women’s National team members. The rosters will also be filled with the top US youth prospects and college draft choices.
But all that doesn’t settle the argument.
A frequently asked question about Soccer is, will soccer ever arrive in America?
Yes, in fact it already has. And leading the way are America’s women.
One detractor keeping men from seeing this truth about Soccer in America is the bad press, and often poor writing the sport receives. I’m especially critical of the Wall Street Journal for two poorly written articles earlier this year. One is here. Both ignorantly attempted to say the sport only fails to grow because the men failed to make the Olympics.
Which ignores the women who had won gold before. Then proceeded to win gold again in London.
The Wall Street Journal is not alone. A lot of soccer and sports journalists, sporting news media shows, and fans feel the same. Which I think is both selective ignorance, as well as a bit of an insult to Women. Women who lead the way for America in this world’s game. It’s also an insult to anyone who supports soccer no matter who is on the pitch. So, by the standard of many sportswriters, if men lose, the game doesn’t grow?
Women have long taken an understated role of spirit, and fan support in male dominated sports.
Is there any reason, as men, we don’t take up the role of cheering, showing spirit, helping others understand the world’s game, and encouraging others to attend?
It’s time we do. And why do we? Why do we as men need to do this. Because if we want to learn how to play and win at the Beautiful Game, we need to learn from America’s women. The very women who already know how to win at soccer.
American women are the best in the world. They are ranked number 1.
Let’s take Shannon Boxx. She’s a defensive midfielder. Imagine if Kyle Beckerman, arguably one of America’s best produced male defensive midfielders, were to recover on defense, initiate attacks, and score the same as her? If he did, Kyle Beckerman wouldn’t be playing for Real Salt Lake. He’d be starting on Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham, or leading Aston Villa back up the table.
This is no prediction. Whichever NWSL club drafts Boxx will have fans who agree with my point after only a few games watching her play.
(Those fans support the Chicago Red Stars)
Imagine if Jozy Altidore were to throw himself into the attack, with the positioning, focus, and strength of Abby Wambach?
Yes, he’s successful right now with his club AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie. But that has not always been the case with other clubs he’s played on, like Wolverhampton Wanderers, Hull, and Villarreal. Include with these the US Men’s National Team. Because Wambach has thrown herself into all the same circumstances as Altidore but her poise, strength, and focus are unquestionable. Whereas Altidore has gaps of time that leave one scratching their head.
Imagine if Brek Shea learned to cut and shift speed like Alex Morgan?
Imagine if Anyone on the men’s team, other than Landon Donovan learned to cross the ball in the run of play like Megan Rapinoe?
So, what needs to change?
To teach boys to play world football, why not show them the US Women’s team. Not to be rude, but boys might learn to play better by watching women who defend more successfully, complete more passes, hold more possession, create more shots, and finish more goals.
US Soccer already is more successful for women than men. Now it’s time to celebrate that together. Let’s acknowledge the women by letting them teach us to do what they already know how to do. American Soccer needs this to happen.
Congratulations Abby Wambach. You are the greatest American Striker I’ve had the privilege of watching play the beautiful game.
©2013 Cheeky Backheel by Ryan J Sales