December 10, 2004

As soccer legends retire, they reminisce about careers

By Ivy Meagan Smith
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

Laughter, friendship and competitiveness are what women’s soccer legends Mia Hamm, Juile Foudy and Joy Fawcett said they’d miss the most as they prepared for their last game as teammates.

During a conference call with reporters Monday, they focused on their love of the game and what they love about each other.

“There’s been so many bonds that we’ve gone through on the field and off the field,” said Foudy, the 33-year-old captain who guided the team through its most successful decade. “There’s more than just soccer, it’s a family.”

After 18 years with the U.S. Women’s National Team, the women turned in their uniforms after Wednesday night’s game. Through two Olympic gold medals and two Women’s World Cup titles, the trio has inspired young girls, and with the help of their teammates, brought international attention to the game.

Their final appearance as team members was in Carson, Calif., against Mexico. The U.S. team won, 5-0, before 15,549 fans.

“There are mixed emotions. Obviously, this is something that we’ve known and been a part of for a very long time,” said Hamm, 32, who leads the world, for both men and women, in career goals scored, with 158.

After the team won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics and the World Cup in 1999, interest in women’s soccer skyrocketed around the world. The trio said that caught them off guard. Foudy said she realized the team’s emotional impact when children cried because they finally got the chance to meet the players. Hamm said, for her, it was the celebrities asking for autographs.

Fawcett, the 36-year-old defender who is recovering from back surgery, said it was a certain event they took part in – Make-A-Wish, a volunteer program that fulfils dreams for sick and dying children.

“Kids that are fighting for their lives choose to come out and visit us and really want to see us,” she said. “I think that has just a huge impact. They really want to come and meet this team at that point in their life.”

Fawcett, who is known as the “ultimate soccer mom,” gained the admiration of her teammates through her personal life. At one point in 1997, she was playing for the national team, coaching a youth team and one at the University of California at Los Angeles, all while raising her two children.

Foudy said Fawcett always showed up with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. Her children traveled with her most of the time, which resulted in many sleepless nights, according to Foudy.

But, the “soccer mom” never showed it on the field.

“I was always wowed by her kids and how she was able to just balance everything,” Foudy said.

It was also Fawcett’s determination to play her best, according to Hamm, that impressed her teammates.

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